Diary of a Fire Safe Neighborhood Group Leader | TheUnion.com

Diary of a Fire Safe Neighborhood Group Leader

Vicki Maddox
Co-Group Leader, Lake Forest Drive

Corrine Terry, a neighbor four doors down called this morning to have us come look at the yard work she was getting done, mostly junipers and oleanders getting cut down – a big job! On the way home we ran into Patti Felton and her dog, Ricky Ricardo and stopped to chat for a couple of minutes.

These are great neighbors that we didn’t know two weeks ago. Glenda Skibitzke and I met them when we knocked on doors to invite neighbors to our first Fire Safety meeting. Glenda and I have been neighbors and friends for 10 years. We know our neighbors on both sides and the neighbors across the street. But now, we’ve met people up and down the street and it feels good to say “Hi” or wave at these new friends as we pass each other on the street. It’s a really nice feeling!

So, what prompted Glenda and me to get trained to become a Fire Safe Group leader? After attending a fire safety town hall meeting, we realized that we’re safer as individual homeowners when we work together with our neighbors to reduce plantings, limb-up trees, create a buddy alert system and be better prepared for a fire and evacuation. That’s a lot, and it’s easier to do when you educate yourself on how to protect your house and prepare for a fire evacuation. I was totally unprepared for fire and the evacuation in 2017. As a community, I think we just got lucky!!

So, what is required to be a Fire Safe Group leader? Glenda and I went to a meeting organized by Jeff Heyser. We were given packets of information that had sample neighborhood meeting agendas to follow….lots of information very well organized with steps to follow and people to contact for help. Jeff showed us pictures he had taken of Paradise properties that had survived the fire and was able to talk to homeowners there that had houses still standing about what they did to keep their property safe. The stories that Jeff heard were about having a defensible space. That and totally soaking/flooding their property with water before they evacuated. These people were lucky enough to have a home to come home to. They didn’t have to start over, at least not completely over.

Glenda and I were inspired to dig in to learn more and then pass on what we learned. At our neighborhood meeting, we quickly found out that our neighbors had been doing their homework too and shared ideas with us and the group. We decided to offer beer, wine, and water to create a friendly atmosphere. Then to start the meeting, we asked each person to introduce themselves, tell us where they lived and tell what they hoped to get out of the meeting. That really got everyone talking and engaged. Here are some useful ideas we got from our neighbors:

­— Karen Rosal found the app http://www.readyforwildfire.org by googling “tell where fires are.”

This is a Cal Fire app that can be downloaded using Google Play or Apple’s app store. It looks user friendly to me.

­— Don Liljeblad spoke up about getting a Defensible Space Advisory visit and how much he learned from the experience. Don’s yard is colorful, very well maintained and full of beautiful plants. He told us that he wasn’t initially receptive to taking out any plantings, then after thinking about it, he told us that he now “thinks of plants as fuel”. Another point that Don brought up is that as neighbors, we all need to work together to make each of our spaces fire safe.

­— The biggest discussion item at our meeting was evacuation. The mechanics of where to get out and where to go.

­— Sherri Morrison has been thinking about evacuation a lot and had several things to share: pick more than one destination, because you won’t know which direction the fire will come from; if you have a pet, find an accommodation that will take pets; do an inventory of household items (make a video?); get important documents in the cloud and/or have physical copies offsite; don’t forget your jewelry; if evacuation seems imminent, have your car packed, in the driveway and facing the road, so you don’t have to back out; identify neighbors that will need special help or accommodations to get them out. As I said, Sherri has been thinking about evacuation!

­— Understand your insurance policy’s fire coverage

­— Mike Laney reminded us to have cash with us and arrange to be able to pay bills online.

­— Then there were some big ideas that will need help from Administration and the Board:

­— Cathie Loucks suggested that when there are Red Flag Warnings or when PG&E turns the power off, RVs should be allowed to be parked in our driveways ready to evacuate, until the danger is over.

­— Mike Laney asked if Beale Air Force Base would be willing to accommodate evacuees? Outside the gate or inside the gate?

­— Sherri Morrison asked if it was possible to create access to Black Forest Road as an alternate route out of LWW?

­— Sherri also challenged us to think about ways to help people not able to afford even a short hotel stay during an evacuation. What kind of a voucher program can be developed for those in need? How/who will determine eligibility?

­— There were many comments about propane tanks

­— Mike Laney buried his tank for $2000. Suburban is his provider, and a special tank is required to be buried.

­— Don Liljeblad told us that propane tanks have a pressure release valve that allows the gas in the tank to escape before it explodes. Even so, many tanks exploded in Paradise. Don’s Ferrellgas tank is on a pea gravel base, surrounded by a brick edge and he said that his tank is about 4 inches above the ground. My Suburban tank is on a base and is about 4 inches above the ground too. Who’s responsible for recommending a 10 inch space underneath the tank when your vendor places the tank 4 inches above the ground?

­— Wooden and plastic screens should be removed. Cement board products are OK.

­— Glenda is checking out having her propane tank artistically painted with a design. The design must be approved by EMO.

­— Patti Felton found information at http://www.propane 101.com that says tanks must be painted in a light heat-reflective color so the pressure relief valve works properly. Also noted is that rust needs to be sanded and scraped with a wire brush before painting. Rust is considered a “dark color”, which can cause overheating.

You can probably tell from all of these ideas and comments that our neighborhood group is engaged! That, PLUS we had fun talking and getting together. Glenda and I have discussed some ideas for a guest speaker for our next meeting. I think the next meeting will be just as informative and fun!

Jeff Heyser probably needs more volunteers to be Fire Safe Group Leaders. Each neighborhood group ideally should include 10 – 20 homes. If you have an interest, contact him at jeff.heyser@sbcglobal.net.

Other members of the Ad Hoc Fire Preparedness Committee are: Barbara Tiegs, betiegs@comcast.net (530)-432-8207 and Virginia Gompertz, virginia@bellaombra.com (925) 250-6848.

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