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CalFire to inspect Plumas homes before fire season

Debra Moore
Staff Writer
3/2/2014
 
Four CalFire inspectors will spend three months ensuring that Plumas County homes are ready for fire season.

Shane Vargas, the local CalFire representative, made the announcement during the Board of Supervisors’ Feb. 18 meeting.

 

Fire-prevention tips for your property
 
Maintain a well-cleared area 30 feet around your home. Trees and ground cover are allowed, but keep them well trimmed. Limb trees up to 10 feet.
 
Maintain a fuel reduction zone out to 100 feet around your home. Remove brush and other low-growing fuels, thin the trees out to keep them well separated, and limb them up so they can be walked under easily.
 
Remove any portion of a tree that comes within 10 feet of a chimney.
 
Clear leaves and needles from your roof.
 
Cover chimneys with a spark arrestor with openings no greater than one-half inch square.
 
If your home is close to the property line, maintain your own property and work with your neighbor to get 100-foot clearance if possible.
 
Be sure all flammables are removed from beneath open decks, and that no firewood is stored against the home.
 
Consider removing abandoned vehicles, and clear dry grass and brush around propane tanks.
 
Your address should be clearly posted on the home and any intersections on your driveway in four-inch numbers on a contrasting background.
 
Ensure that driveways and access roads are free of obstructions and at least 12 feet wide, with overhead clearance for a fire truck.

Speaking during public comment, Vargas said that a grant would pay for four individuals to conduct defensible space inspections from April through June.
“We’re rolling this out as a brand new program,” Vargas said. “The focus is going to be on education.”


During a Feb. 20 interview, Vargas elaborated on the plan.

Grant funding provides four inspectors for the local CalFire unit, which includes Lassen, Modoc and Plumas. But because there are engines and personnel in Lassen and Modoc, the four will be working in Plumas. And because the Westwood CalFire station covers the Lake Almanor Basin, the inspectors will cover Canyon Dam and south.

Additionally, homes that are in a local responsibility area are not part of the program. “It’s for residences in SRAs (state responsibility areas),” Vargas said. Property owners who have been assessed the state’s $150 fire fee are in the SRA.

The inspectors will visit the properties (a homeowner need not be home) and inspect for a variety of items such as whether there are combustible materials near a home or if a tree limb is too close to a chimney.

The inspectors will leave an inspection form for the homeowners detailing what needs to be done.

“The homeowner can contact us when they are ready to be inspected again,” Vargas said. “We allow three inspections to obtain compliance.”
Failure to comply can result in a citation.

Maintaining 100 feet of defensible space can be costly and time-consuming. When asked about those who are physically or financially unable to address the requirements, Vargas said, “We’re working collaboratively with the fire safe council. There are grant-funded programs that can provide assistance.”
The goal is to make residences and their communities more resistant to wildfire.

 Vargas estimates that 50 percent of the property owners “might need to fix a couple of small things,” while 25 percent might require a couple of days’ work. The remaining group could be facing fixes that require more time and money.

 Vargas will share more information as it becomes available, but homeowners can begin taking action now in advance of the spring inspections.

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