Volunteers work to clear brush as part of the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 4. The event provided an opportunity for community members to learn more about the importance of maintaining a defensible space around their properties to help mitigate the potential of embers igniting spot fires, the number one threat to residences vulnerable to fire. Photo by Stacy Fisher

What makes a firewise community?

The public is reminded to make sure all debris is cleared around the home in the event that wildfires send embers onto your property and catch fire, endangering your safety and that of your neighbors.

Chester Fire Public Information Officer Karen Lichti said that she would appreciate it if homeowners would contact her regarding the number of hours and dollars spent “hardening” their homes against fire utilizing information provided through the Chester Firewise program.

“We can collect this information through October 30,” she said, by either calling her at 258-3456 or emailing her with the necessary data at [email protected]

Alternatively, people can also reply to one of the fire department’s Facebook posts at “Chester Fire.”

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Also, the department’s website at Chesterpud.org provides a form found at www.chesterpud.org/property-owners-time-and-expense-sheet that can be printed out, filled in and mailed to: Firewise, Attn: Karen Lichti, P.O. Box 177, Chester, CA. 96020, or hand deliver the filled out form to the CPUD/CFD main office located at 251 Chester Airport Road in Chester.

The collected information provides statistical analysis that is sent to the national Firewise organization at firewisecommunitiesUSA.com.

No names or addresses are needed, she noted, adding that, “We need this information to retain our Firewise accreditation.”

Of special interest to homeowners is the fact that many insurance companies are starting to discontinue or cancel fire insurance due to the high cost of devastating wildfires and other disasters that have set the companies back billions of dollars in claims.

However, Lichti remarked that because we live in a nationally recognized Firewise community, fire insurance could be reinstated for some companies if a letter is generated by the Firewise Committee stating that the property owner has met the necessary criteria required in making their homes safe from the threat of fire.

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“If your fire insurance has been canceled, have your insurance agent email me and I will send the letter to him or her,” Lichti said, which should help in many situations where the homeowner has had their insurance policy canceled. It doesn’t mean that the homeowner’s premiums won’t rise, she noted, but homeowner insurance nevertheless requires fire insurance as part of the mortgage agreement.

Lichti would have to verify that the property owner is eligible by having her perform a simple inspection through the fire department’s free Home Ignition Assessment program in which she would be able to offer helpful advice on protecting your home.

There’s plenty of literature available at no cost at the firehouse that provides answers to questions you may have on fire safety, Lichti said.

For seniors or those with a disability who may not have the resources or ability to create a defensible space around their dwelling, there’s the Plumas County Fire Safe Council Defensible Space Assistance program application sheet available online that’s funded through a grant provided by the Plumas County Board of Supervisors and other county agencies.

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Click on Assistance Opportunities, and from the dropdown menu choose Senior/Disabled Assistance. “There is currently a waiting list, but it makes sense to sign up as soon as possible.”

To sign up, go online to plumasfiresafe.org for details and instructions on filling out an application and hit the submit button.

Or contact the program coordinator, Mike McCourt, Plumas Fire Safe Council by emailing him at [email protected], or by regular mail to Mike McCourt, Plumas Fire Safe Council, P. O. Box 1225, Quincy, CA 95971. Phone: 283-0829.

In addition, Lichti said that the free Plumas County Free Chipping Program in the Chester area is starting again Aug. 26. The rules and sign up are on the Plumas Fire Safe Council website also at: www.plumasfiresafe.org.

“I can’t understate the importance of establishing a defensible space around your home,” she insisted. “That’s essential.”