I had the opportunity to participate in Big Bear Valley’s Firewise Day on Saturday July 14, 2012. The success of the day and their wildfire prevention program is due in part to the wonderful partnerships that have been successfully developed. This ability to work together reminded me of the theme from the Hawaiian Fire Chiefs meeting that I recently attended: “Hand in Hand Together We Can”.
There were two events on the same day, an open house at a local property which participated in two vegetative fuels reduction programs and maintained native plantings as well as two community outreach events for a FEMA Shake Roof Replacement Grant. Information about Big Bear’s programs can be viewed on their website www.thinisin.org. Present was the organizer of the events David Yegge (Fire Fuels Program Supervisor Big Bear City Fire Authority), Ricardo Castillo (the Cal EMA grant Manager), Rick Harrick (a local City Council Representative), Penni Overstreet Murphy (Fire Prevention Specialist, San Bernardino County Fire Department) , Representatives from CAL FIRE, MAST, the local radio station, USAA Insurance and the Sierra Club.
The open house event allowed over 350 participants to walk with a tour leader throughout the property. The tour examined retrofits that were made to the home and the property to lessen the risk of damage to the home by wildfire. The homeowner participated with a grant-funded chipping program through the California Fire Safe Council Grant Clearing House and a tree trimming program called Forest Care funded by the US Forest Service and partners the National Forest Association and Cal FIRE. Afterwards, tourees were allowed to take surveys, obtain information from agency partner booths and finally enjoy a nice tri-tip steak sandwich and coleslaw provided by the sponsoring insurance agency. Many comments from those participating indicated that the hands-on tour enabled them to better understand proper techniques for making modifications to their home and vegetation while at the same time maintaining a nice, “park like appearance”. For more information about Firewise home and yard improvements visit the Firewise website, the Fire Adapted Communities website, and finally the NFPA website for information about codes and standards related to wildfire prevention.
There were also two outreach events for the shake roof replacement program in the community held at two local fire stations, one in Fawn Skin Fire and one at Big Bear Fire Authority Headquarters. Mr. Yegge talked to residents about the risk to a home with wood/shake roofs using fire after-action statistics as well as information how they could participate. Ricardo Castillo, the grant Manager from Cal EMA, was present to answer additional questions and the USAA Insurance representative gave homeowners general information about making their insurance companies aware of the positive change they made to their structure by replacing the shake roof with a Class A roof. Homeowners were able to sign up for the program on the spot using a smartphone application. I was also able to see homes that had been reroofed with FEMA grant funds through Cal EMA in the past.
I also saw evacuation signs posted courtesy of funding from the American Red Cross www.redcross.org. More information about being ready to leave can be obtained by visiting the Ready, Set ,Go! website.
As a homeowner and community resident, you are not helpless when it comes to wildfire events. There are many free and low-cost things that you can do to protect one of the biggest investments that any of us will ever make -- your home. Find out how you can protect what is important to you by visiting these websites for more information! You can make a difference in the outcome in the event of wildfire!