Firewise event scheduled for Monday |

Firewise event scheduled for Monday


The term “Firewise” was coined in the early 1990s to identify the growing body of knowledge that exists for landowners seeking to reduce their risk to wildfire. The National Fire Protection Association, a global self-funded nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards launched a dedicated firewise website in 1997.

Research around home destruction vs. home survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames as the main way that most homes ignite in wildfires. Embers, or firebrands, are burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind, cause spot fires and ignite homes, debris and other objects.

There are methods homeowners may implement to prepare their homes to better withstand ember attacks and reduce the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the home. Experiments, models and post-fire studies have shown homes ignite due to the condition of the home and everything around it, up to 200’ from the foundation. This is called the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ).

Becoming Firewise means implementing Defensible Space, best-practices which are endorsed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Forest Service and Cal Fire, and are required by both state law (PRC 4291) and Nevada County’s local hazardous vegetation ordinance.

Check Your Neighborhood Firewise Status

Not sure if your neighborhood is a Firewise Community or Firewise Community In-Training? Check out the Coalition of Firewise Communities of Nevada County’s resource page.

Firewise Resources to Help You Get Started

Working Together to Stay Safe: How to Become a Firewise Community in Nevada County—PDF

How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires (Spanish version)—PDF

Map of Nevada County Fire Wise Communities

Editor’s note: Organizers say they are expecting a higher attendance than originally planned, so the location has been changed to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors’ chambers of the Rood Center, 950 Maidu Avenue in Nevada City.

Two experts are set to speak on from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday about fire safety.

JoAnn Fites-Kaufman and Pat Leach present Get Firewise: Organize! in the Board of Supervisors’ chambers, according to a release.

The meeting is intended to be an intimate presentation on how to inspire, mobilize and organize a neighborhood. It’s meant as a way to meet people already engaged in the work, help create plans for individuals, their families and communities, including ways to support established Firewise communities or even start a new one.

According to the release, tackling a problem seems daunting when done alone, but can be made easier and even more enjoyable when done alongside friends, family and neighbors.

Nevada County boasts the second highest number of Firewise communities in the state, second only to Marin County. The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County has worked over the past two decades to provide vital support to communities seeking to make their homes, neighborhoods and private roads safer.

Now, the Fire Safe Council and the Coalition of Firewise Communities of Nevada County work in tandem to support new communities who are organizing at the neighborhood level.

Fites-Kaufman grew up in the Sierra Nevada and has lived on the Ridge for 21 years. She has worked for over 35 years in natural resources, ecology and fire, mostly with the U.S. Forest Service. She has a Ph.D. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington and 15 years of experience working on wildfires measuring fire behavior, effectiveness of fuel treatments and fire effects.

She maintains her fireline qualifications as a firefighter, fire behavior technical specialist and fire effects monitor.

Pat Leach came to Nevada County from Hawaii where she was a partner in a fire detection and suppression company, during which she helped Honolulu update their Fire Prevention Codes in the early ‘80s after the tragic Las Vegas fire at the MGM Grand called attention to high-rise safety.

Now a Ridge resident for 22 years, she is the Corporate Secretary of RCD Engineering, a local manufacturing company, engages with community issues through the San Juan Ridge Action Community Team, is a board member of the North San Juan Fire Protection District for the past 15 years, and a defensible space advisor for the Fire Safe Council.

Source: County of Nevada Office of Emergency Services

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