Jeff Pelline
Staff Writer

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June 23, 2008
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Get defensive to save your home


The blazes in the Tahoe National Forest to the east and Napa to the west are a stark reminder of the area's vulnerability to wildfires.

Though residents can't control lightning strikes, they can take greater precautions to reduce fire hazards, according to fire officials.

Insurance companies are providing a further incentive by canceling some homeowners' policies, as The Union reported in April. More residents have continued to report cancellations in recent months.

Some residents incorrectly assume that a fire truck will park in their driveway to defend their home in a fire, but a major wildfire will crimp firefighting resources and in some instances "firefighters will likely select homes they can most safely and adequately protect," as the Fire Safe Council points out in a homeowners brochure.

Creating defensible space around a home is the first order of business, according to fire officials. A defensible space of 100 feet around your home is now required by law, up from 30 feet previously.

This includes a so-called "lean, clean and green zone" of 30 feet surrounding your home and a "reduced fuel zone" in the remaining 70 feet, according to CalFire.

The law also provides for local ordinance or regulation to specify distances greater than 1,000 feet, but the fire plan being discussed at the Rood Center does not, much to the disappointment of some officials.

Insurance companies, however, can "require home and building owners to maintain firebreaks greater than 100 feet," according to a memo from the State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Certain plants also can be removed to reduce fire risk.

Scotch broom, for example, is a "severe" fire hazard, according to the Fire Safe Council. Manzanita also poses a major risk.

The Fire Safe Council provides programs that can make it more affordable to create defensible space, such as its chipping program. The council will chip any brush that is cleared 100 feet from any permanent structure or 30 feet from any roadside or driveway used for evacuation.

The group also will provide defensible space clean-up for some residents who meet certain guidelines for being physically disabled or financial need.

Residents also need to operate gasoline-powered equipment carefully during fire season. More than 1,600 fires are started by Californians using equipment, such as lawn mowers, weedeaters, chain saws or tractors, in an unsafe matter.

To contact Editor Jeff Pelline, e-mail jpelline@theunion.com or call 477-4235.


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The Union Updated Jun 24, 2008 02:41AM Published Jun 23, 2008 03:00AM Copyright 2008 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.