Barbara Bashall: Protect your most valuable investment
Protecting your home and property from wildfire has never been more important. Some homeowners have seen their fire insurance canceled. Others have lost their homes.
This month I’ll discuss land clearing and other steps to protect your most valuable investment.
The good news is there are Nevada County Contractors’ Association members who perform excellent work to help make your home a safe haven from wildfire.
The bad news is many are booked months into the future.
But that shouldn’t dissuade you from getting on their schedule now. Fall and even winter can be great times to treat your property so you’re ready for the next fire season.
Go to NCCABuildingPros.com and click on “Find a Contractor.” From the “Any Category” drop down box, select “Land Clearing/Brush Clearing” and/or “Tree Service.” You’ll see a list of licensed, bonded, professional contractors.
In its most recent report, “Nevada County Wildfire Preparedness,” the Nevada County Grand Jury noted that maintaining defensible space around our properties and being prepared to quickly evacuate offer the best chance for survival.
Fire officials have instructed homeowners: “You provide the defense, and we’ll provide the offense.”
There are three zones around your home that require differing degrees of fire mitigation. Professional land clearing and fire protection companies know the specific regulations that apply to each of those zones.
“A lot of the small jobs in a backyard can be taken care of by a strong back and weedeater,” said Ray Byers, Jr., operations manager of Byers Land Clearing and Wildfire Prevention.
For bigger jobs, you’ll need bigger equipment.
“We offer mastication which can chip up the larger brush and small trees and lay it back down on top of the soil,” Byers said. “Our highest priority is to make clients’ homes less vulnerable to wildfires, but that does not mean we clear-cut all trees and bulldoze bushes. We take a thoughtful approach to land clearing, removing only the vegetation that puts a home at risk.
“Our land clearing and fire prevention team has all the tools necessary to complete a project quickly and efficiently. This includes an industrial-sized auger, trencher, and masticator. The property looks fantastic when we’re done, and you have a nice park-like setting.”
LOCALS KNOW THE TERRAIN
Byers said his land-clearing crews are booked into next year. Alicia Misita, president of Misita Tree & Land, Inc., said her crews are scheduling projects two months out.
“Hiring a company that understands how terrain, types and density of vegetation, and your personal property goals can align with recommendations of Cal Fire and California Fire Safe Councils is invaluable,” Misita said. “It’s amazing how land can be treated with the use of high-efficiency masticators, mulchers, and track chippers, as well as a trained and experienced crew.
“An average land clearing project for fire abatement will include removal of dead and dying trees, mastication of brush, and removal of understory/small diameter trees through mastication or hand work. The chips and mastication mulch are broadcasted on site and the depth is not to exceed three inches. Finally, we go through and skirt trim all trees 10 to 15 feet to reduce ladder fuels.”
Misita said professional land clearing and fire protection companies work hand-in-hand with other professionals.
“We partner with local fire marshals, foresters, and other experts to ensure that we execute a well-rounded plan specific for each property owner.”
Brian Forkner, owner of Ridge Logging, has resources and connections to assemble a variety of crews and respond to consumer requests.
“People are sometimes surprised to quickly receive a return call, even during this busy season,” Forkner said. “We meet with landowners to evaluate their projects free of charge, and outline the work that Ridge Logging will do. We deploy state-of-the-art equipment and employ experienced operators. We do fire fuels/brush reduction, select removal harvest plans, hazard tree removal, and the creation of defensible space that firefighters look for.”
Forkner contracts with federal and state firefighting agencies to fight wildland fires, and he also enjoys working on local fire prevention and protection.
“People are reaching across property lines to protect their neighborhoods and working to maintain their homeowners’ insurance policies. Together, as a team, we can all help make Nevada County fire safe. Ridge Logging is small company that can get big work done efficiently.”
DEFENSIBLE SPACE BY THE BOOK
In March, Nevada County Supervisors updated the county’s hazardous vegetation ordinance.
Among many regulations, the expanded county ordinance requires that homeowners reduce fire fuels 100 feet around their home, even if that 100-foot area extends past the property line and into their neighbor’s property. Private roads providing ingress and egress must be cleared of ladder fuels 10 feet on each side, and trees in that 10-foot zone must be limbed 15 feet up.
So far this year, 37% of the inspections completed by county defensible space inspectors have been complaint-driven. Others were routine inspections in high priority areas identified in coordination with Cal Fire and local fire districts.
County officials are sensitive to the fact that land clearing companies are booked out, and some residents aren’t physically able to do the work themselves.
But as a last resort, after at least two warnings, the property owner can be referred to code compliance. Fines imposed by the county increase gradually from $130, to $700, and finally $1,300 per violation. There may be many violations on one property.
Personal safety, protecting our homes and property, and avoiding potential fines are all reasons we must take action.
Members of the Nevada County Contractors’ Association are here to help.
Barbara Bashall writes a monthly column for The Union. She is the executive director of the Nevada County Contractors’ Association, a nonprofit group of 320 general contractors, sub-contractors, building material suppliers, and other construction professionals whose mission is to promote high standards, integrity, and ethical practices within the construction industry. Visit NCCABuildingPros.com or call 530-274-1919. Freelance writer Lorraine Jewett contributed to this column.
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