Chester Fire PIO Karen Lichti holds up a handout available to the community on how to reduce wildfire risks.

Chester prepares for fire season

Although CalFire has no set date for when fire season officially begins, now that the snows have effectively melted and the rains are a distant memory, any day now could be the start of another year of epic wildland conflagrations that could sweep through our region, possibly equaling or exceeding last year’s massive destruction.

As part of a series of educational lectures sponsored by the Chester Firewise Committee, a meeting was held in the CFD conference room in the early evening of April 16, presented by Karen Lichti, Chester Fire Public Information officer and firefighter.

Her presentation covered the topic, “What Does Defensible Space Look Like?” and included several handouts. Preparing for the upcoming fire season is essential, Lichti cautioned attendees.

The first priority in establishing a safe zone where fire cannot easily propagate is to “harden your home against wildfire within the first five to 30 feet around your dwelling,” Lichti began. “You want to be sure there’s nothing flammable leading up to the exterior of your home by clearing any debris that has piled up,” so that any hot embers have nothing to catch on fire.

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This also includes removing anything that’s combustible like your patio furniture that can be temporarily transferred inside your house at the first sign of a fire or relocated further away from your property.

Additionally, it is wise to keep your grass cut short and green, she said, with tree branches that overhang your house removed, as well as trimming branches along a third of the length of any trees located elsewhere on your property (6 feet minimum). This is especially necessary for any dead branches that have dried out and can act as a fuel source.

A decorative concrete or gravel walkway and a rock garden can substitute for a lawn, plus removing shrubs or plants that are adjacent to your house and garage is highly recommended, she said.

Be sure to regularly rake up any dry pine needles, pinecones, leaves, or other vegetation littering your property that can catch fire. This is also important to do on roofs, gutters, outdoor decks or wooden porches and stairways.

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Your roof should be constructed of fireproof or fire-resistant materials, for example metal sheeting, fiberglass-based asphalt shingles, or clay or slate tiles that can withstand a lot of heat for an extended period. Wood shingle roofs can be treated with fire retardant.

It’s also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher and/or a water hose on hand to put out any spot fires that may arise in your yard.

If you have a propane tank on your property, keep it clear of any materials that can catch on fire. Lichti pointed out.

In addition, keep your woodpile away from your porch during the dry season and cover with a fire resistant tarp.

Lichti suggested that homeowners talk with neighbors and seek agreement to work in concert to clear any fire hazards found around their respective properties.

Also be prepared to evacuate in case you are ordered to do so by fire or law enforcement officials. This means having an evacuation plan ahead of time.

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As part of a series of educational lectures sponsored by the Chester Firewise Committee, a meeting is held in the CFD conference room April 16 on the topic, “What Does Defensible Space Look Like?” presented by Karen Lichti, Chester Fire information officer and fire fighter. Photos by Stacy Fisher

Another Firewise meeting on establishing a detailed evacuation plan will be held Tuesday, May 14, at 6 p.m. in the CFD conference room.

A free Home Ignition Safety inspection undertaken by fire personnel can be scheduled as an opportunity for the homeowner or tenant to receive positive feedback on things to do to make their homes safer in case of wildfire.

As people clean up their yards to prepare for wildfire season, Lichti said she would appreciate it if they call or email her with the number of hours spent on cleanup activities and the amount of money spent for tools such as racks and other supplies like garbage bags used to clear their properties, as well as how many people participated in the yard cleanup, including hired help.

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That information is then collected to provide statistical analysis that will be sent to the “Firewise” organization at firewisecommunitiesUSA.com. No names or addresses are needed, basically just the amount of time spent and materials used.

“To stay a Firewise community we have to report hours clearing defensible space,” Lichti explained. She can be contacted at 258-3456 to report this information.

Living in a rural community surrounded by forest with dry undergrowth means your family and your home are more susceptible to the risk from wildfire, Lichti warned. Residents need to take the risks seriously.

To summarize, Lichti said, “The whole idea is to create a defensible space around your home to slow down the spread of flames and reduce the risk of embers starting spot fires.”

CodeRED Program

The CodeRED program allows for the county to contact residents directly through the OES by cell phone message or text, or by sending an email during an emergency, to let people know whether there’s an approaching wildfire, flood conditions, downed power lines, lost individuals and abductions, chemical spills, bomb threats, the need to evacuate or other emergencies.

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Coupled with high-speed telephone calling technology, the system can distribute emergency pre-recorded messages via telephone to targeted areas of the entire county at a rate of 1,000 calls per minute.

Plumas County residents are encouraged to enter their contact information for home, business and mobile phones into the CodeRED system so they may be alerted in the event of an emergency situation.

It is especially important to register for those who may have unlisted numbers, cell phones or VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).

People can register for the free service online only, at the Plumas County website by clicking on emergency sign-ups.

Anyone seeking assistance to register can call the toll-free number at: 1-866-939-0911 from 4 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration is confidential and free.

National Wildfire Preparedness Day

Saturday, May 4, is National Wildfire Preparedness Day. The Firewise Committee is holding an event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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People can meet at the CPUD front lawn, then off to create some defensible space at two locations. Lunch will be served for participants. RSVP Karen Lichti at 228-9611.

The last springtime Firewise Community meeting will be held Tuesday, May 14, at 6 p.m., in the CFD conference room, and will cover the creation of a local evacuation plan and a communications plan.

The Chester Firewise Committee is looking for other community members to join as board members.