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Benefits of Firewise communities reach beyond fire protection

Yes, it’s winter and snow is blanketing the peaks of Plumas County. But spring will come and with it abundant growth and the need to work on our defensible space.

So it’s never to early to plan and the Plumas County Fire Safe Council invites anyone who is interested to come and learn how to mitigate the risks of wildfire around their homes, businesses and properties.

Doable, cost-effective plans

Residents who participate in the Firewise Communities USA program receive up-to-date information to “create an action plan that commits them to a sustained program of wildfire mitigation, which is generally both physically doable and cost-effective,” according to Sue McCourt, a fire prevention specialist and member of the county’s Fire Safe Council.

Ultimately, she explained, each community creates their own plan and develops unique solutions tailored to the population of their own area and wildfire mitigation challenges.

Feel safer in our environment

The Firewise USA program provides a framework for reducing the risk of wildfire.

But more than that, McCourt said meeting the criteria for becoming a Firewise USA site helps communities get organized and find direction for their wildfire safety efforts.

“Like the first rungs on a ladder,” she noted, “the criteria help get a community started toward annual, systematic action to reduce their risks from wildfires.”

As neighbors go through the process, they learn about wildfire risks in the community and the simple things they can do to reduce them.

They connect with experts — local firefighters, state forestry professionals and national researchers — to continue to learn about fire and find resources to accomplish fire-safe actions.

“People who work with experts to learn about wildfire and take action start to see results quickly,” McCourt said reassuringly. “Knowing that they are using the best information available and actually taking steps to reduce the risk of damage from fire helps people start to feel safer in their environment and in their homes.”

Prepared to act quickly

McCourt also said having a plan for what to do in the event of a fire helps people become calmer and more prepared to act quickly.

“As neighbors get together to do work, often meeting one another for the first time, they build a stronger bond with each other working towards a common cause for the good of the neighborhood,” the fire prevention specialist remarked.

This strengthening of community ties “can benefit residents in many ways, and is especially helpful during an emergency to have the connections with each other and have an evacuation plan in place in the event of a wildfire,” she said.

Plumas Firewise Communities

According to McCourt and the Fire Safe Council, Plumas County’s certified Firewise Communities “are doing tremendous work in educating residents on things they can do to make their homes more defendable from wildfire and embers and providing an understanding about fire behavior around their homes and communities.”

She explained that each community has a unique approach tailored to their population base.

“Community building is a bonus with the program,” McCourt observed. “It brings people together before an emergency and arms them with the best knowledge and information available.”

Invest in education, safety

The Plumas County Fire Safe Council supports efforts of our communities countywide.

McCourt explained that local communities have invested thousands of hours of time, work and financial resources doing fuel-reduction and educational events.

She said each of us needs to evaluate our homes and properties and do the fuel reduction work to make the job easier for our emergency responders, many of whom are our volunteer firefighters tasked with responding to wildfires in this area.

Simple things, like understanding the importance of checking your roof and gutters before winter sets in to ensure there is nothing flammable that a spark could land in and start a fire can make a big difference in fire safety, according to the council.

As part of its public education mission, for example, the organization also reminds residents to do preventive maintenance to keep their wood stoves working at peak efficiency and safety.

“Burning wet wood leads to more creosote, which leads to increased risk of a flue fire,” the council’s website states, advising that flues must be swept every year, preferably by a reputable chimney sweep who can inspect the condition of the stove and chimney pipe as well as clean it.

“We should all feel fortunate that Plumas County’s Firewise Communities are working hard to create a culture of preparedness,” McCourt added. “We hope to continue to add communities and neighborhoods into the Firewise USA program.”

Get involved, learn more

The Plumas Fire Safe Council supports fire safety education as well as fuel-reduction projects countywide and welcomes everyone to participate in its monthly meetings.

Learn about activities in your local Firewise Communities, get the latest information on projects countywide and find out what is happening close to your neighborhood to be safer in the event of a wildfire.

Citizens, members of Plumas Firewise Communities, business owners and representatives from local, state and federal government agencies attend the monthly meetings to share a common interest in preventing loss of life and minimizing loss of property from wildland fires.

The Plumas County Fire Safe Council meets at 9 a.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the Plumas County Planning & Building Services office, 555 Main St. in Quincy.

For more information, call 283-3739, visit www.plumasfiresafe.org or contact Hannah Heppner at [email protected].

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