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November 5, 2010 > Fighting Wildfires

Fighting Wildfires

By Meenu Gupta
Photos By Courtesy of Jenn Viane Riese

Milpitas is a "high fire risk community identified within the wild land-urban interface, the area where homes and wild lands intermix," according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Materials capable of causing a fire to spread quickly must be cleared or modified to act as a barrier between a wildfire and residential property. A defensible space of 100 feet around homes is required by law.

Clearing flammable vegetation or other fuels 30 feet immediately around structures is essential. The remaining 70 feet should ensure proper spacing, both horizontal and vertical, between trees to prevent a vertical "fire ladder."

"Our Hazardous Fuel Reduction (HFR) Program helps residents create and maintain Defensible Space around their homes," said Jenn Viane Riese, Executive Director Santa Clara County FireSafe Council (SCFSC), a non-profit providing services and education to help protect people and homes from wildfires. Homeowners do the brush clearing work, trimming and create piles; SCFSC hires contractors to chip the material.

For homeowners 65 years or older or physically disabled or are financially unable to hire a contractor, SCFSC will hire a contractor to do both the clearing, trimming and chipping work. Under low income guidelines: 1 person, $40,000/year ($3,333/month); or 2 people, $50,000/year ($4,167/month), SCFSC offers Special Needs Assistance Program (SNAP).

SCFSC Area Managers work with local fire agencies to do an initial hazard assessment then coordinate homeowners and the chipping crew to determine the work that will be done. All material chipped will be blown back onto the property which can be used for mulch.

"These programs are no-cost to residents and are funded by federal grants as well as local grants and donations from businesses and individuals. They are currently open to the high fire risk areas of the County, including Milpitas. We encourage residents to take advantage of these programs before wildfire seasons begin and the risk of wildfire increases" said Riese. "We also engage in Community Outreach and Education where we educate the public about wildfire prevention and the creation and maintenance of Defensible Space. As part of our efforts, we use the loveable icon Smokey Bear to help deliver our message" she said.

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