Risk of wild fires runs high in late summer and early fall, but
it’s never a bad time to consider creating defensible space around
– especially when there’s a free, year-round service available
to help get the job done.
Risk of wild fires runs high in late summer and early fall, but it’s never a bad time to consider creating defensible space around the home – especially when there’s a free, year-round service available to help get the job done.
The Santa Clara County FireSafe Council, the only nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing wildfires throughout the county, recently formed a local South Santa Clara County branch in late October. They now specialize in providing complimentary chipping services to residents in places such as Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin. The organization’s priority is bringing South County agencies, community groups and resources together to better educate homeowners, raise awareness and enable residents to be proactive, should a wildfire strike.
“There hasn’t been a large wildfire … here in a long time,” said council volunteer Jenn Viane Riese. “What happens every year, (is) fuel loads accumulate, and provide a greater risk every year. We need to be proactive, help people prepare and be aware.”
She said a number of Santa Clara County communities are surrounded by wildland urban interface areas, putting them at higher risk as they’re located against a backdrop of natural fuels.
Riese defined defensible space as the area around a home or structure that is properly cleared of vegetation. This establishes a zone around the house that not only protects the building, but also provides a safe area for firefighters.
In short, it’s a giant safety buffer should a wildfire strike anywhere near the residence.
Creating defensible space entails clearing a circumference area of 30 feet immediately surrounding the home from flammable vegetation, with an additional 70 feet – or to the property line – of reduced fuel zone. The latter requires maintaining spaces between plants and shrubs to prevent fires from spreading, trimming trees to at least 10 feet away from the chimney and removing lower tree limbs to reduce “fire ladders.”
Now that the SCFSC has been awarded three grants from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service through the California Fire Safe Council, residents are encouraged to take advantage of the service by removing vegetation such as excess plants and fallen trees, then have them chipped free of charge.
Folks who are 65 years older, physically disabled or financially unable to hire a contractor to perform the clearing work may qualify for the special needs assistance program, which covers the clearing and chipping work.
“Preparation is important in helping protect homes, lives and local business,” emphasized Dave Bozzo, Gilroy Fire Department retired division chief and South Santa Clara County FSC’s lead volunteer.
Volunteer Kelly Guerra said any kind of fire safety is good by her.
“Awareness seems to kind of ebb away during winter,” she said reiterating there are no qualifications for taking advantage of the free chipping program.
“We want to help home owners, and enable them to protect homes and communities before fires strike,” said Riese.
Anyone interested in the chipping program is encouraged to visit www.sccfiresafe.org. The website also provides a downloadable copy of “Living with Fire,” which provides a step-by-step guide for creating defensible space, along with fire safe landscape design and a list of fire resistant plants.
– Chipping will only be done along road or driveway frontage, which will allow the crew to work from the road or driveway.
– Piles must be within five feet of chipper access.
– Piles must be on the uphill side of the road or driveway.
– Piles must be free of roots, stumps, rocks, mud, poison oak and vines.
– Piles must be stacked with the cut ends facing the same direction, pointing toward the access route to the piles.
– All material chipped will be blown back onto the property. The chips can be used for mulch.
– SCFSC cannot clean up timber harvest projects or vacant lots.
– Leaves, pine needles, yard clippings or decaying wood cannot be chipped.
Source: South Santa Clara FireSafe Council