Firewise USA Recognition
By Jeff Bates and David Hubbard
When we see images of the devastation from wildfires that California residents have faced over the last few years, it is natural to ask what more we can do to better prepare our communities and ourselves in case of wildfires. These questions motivated Redwood Estates residents to attend a community wildfire-awareness seminar in April at the Redwood Estates Pavilion. This seminar was hosted by the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council and the Santa Clara County Fire Department, and led by Eugenia Rendler. The seminar provided attendees with guidelines and action plans to help keep their homes and families safe, such as early evacuation planning, creating defensible spaces around their homes by minimizing brush, vegetation, ladder fuels, and removing dead trees, and keeping rooftops and gutters free of debris.
We want to encourage our neighbors to maintain their property to minimize the spread of fire, and be available to help their neighbors do the same.
Attendees also learned that Redwood Estates could become a Firewise USA® recognized site. We have achieved this goal.
In order for a community to become recognized as Firewise by the National Fire Protection Association, a majority of community members must participate. They must make efforts to reduce the risk of fire by developing plans such as vegetation management, fire-resistant landscaping, clearly marked street signs, and street addresses on residential structures. They must hold community meetings to educate residents on the risks of wildfires in a wildland-urban interface area.
Redwood Estates has always promoted fire safety, sponsoring community brush-chipping programs for the past thirty years. Redwood Estates Services Association was approached by the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council to find out how our community designed the “drive-up chipping program” and began partnering with us in 2009. This partnership resulted in two annual brush-chipping days, yielding an average of 135 truckloads chipped per day. This opened doors to many community hazardous-fuel reduction programs and grant money.
Another important aspect to becoming Firewise is to perform a community-risk assessment with the assistance of the Santa Clara County Fire Department. This assessment was reviewed and edited by Santa Clara Country Fire Battalion Chief Jon Black, who suggested ways we could reduce brush on vacant or uninhabited lots and ensure that street signs are not obstructed and are highly reflective.
These projects help keep our mountain homes and communities safe. If you have questions about fire safety in Redwood Estates, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.sccfiresafe.org. Being recognized as a Firewise community is not a one-time accomplishment. It requires reducing fuels annually and making an ongoing commitment to protecting our mountain community. In the words of John Muir: “You are not in the mountains, the mountains are in you.”
First printed in the Mountain Network News, October 2019, pp. 10–11