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Camp Meeker Beat - November 2016

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Camp Meeker Beat - November 2016

by Tom Austin

November. Camp Meeker buckles down for the damp season. If today’s forecasts our correct (we have an early deadline this month), we just got some rain. That will help with fire safety, the subject of last month’s columns, and a subject I will return to. But first, an important announcement: the Camp Meeker Volunteer Fire Department (CMVFD) is holding their annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser on the second Saturday in November (November 9). Come on down, break bread with your neighbors, buy a ticket to help the CMVFD keep us safe and sound for another year. 

Yes, safe from fire – along with all of the other emergencies the VFD responds to. That’s what we talked about with Sonoma County Fire (SCF) at the 18th and 28th of September Community Meetings. The SCF was there to explain (and to smooth some ruffled feathers) the potential implementation of SCF Fire Code Chapter 13A. The gist of Chapter 13A is that it gives SCF the authority to compel homeowners to remove or abate vegetation deemed a fire hazard. I touched upon some of the things SCF would be looking at, but I think it bears repeating and expanding.

By far the most important area is the five feet immediately surrounding your home. Here’s what you should look for: clear all the duff from that five-foot area (and from your roof – ugh). Look for “ladder fuels” (think of climbing vines, particularly invasive English ivy) climbing the walls of your house. They are called ladder fuels because flame can climb the ladder and get a foothold on your house. Look for other items that could be fuel for a fire – stacked firewood, cans of paint thinner, etc. and move them to a safer place. Firewood stacked against the house in winter is fine, but not a great idea in the summer. 

Okay, now look at the ten-foot zone around your house. Look for trees with overhanging branches that come close to your house. You will want to get out and prune those branches to clear a 6-15 foot buffer between the tree and your house. 

Okay, good. Phase one complete. Good job! Now look at the rest of your property. Look for dead and dying vegetation. Especially look around your propane tank. In fact, create the same safe zone around your propane tank that you did around your house. Yes, that ugly propane tank that you’re rather not see. What if you have some lovely wisteria vines covering that ugly tank? Would you have to remove those? Only if they are dead or dying. Live, healthy vegetation is not a fire hazard. This very specifically includes redwood trees and fir trees. 

Okay, that’s the routine stuff. Vegetation and duff doesn’t take any capital equipment to abate – just rake, a shovel, and some sweat equity. It’s the dead and dying trees that are the sticking point. The dead tan oak trees. There are some Doug Firs that need attention as well, but clearly the dead tan oaks are the biggest fire hazard and the biggest pain to remove. It will take a wood chipper, and you can’t just run down to Home Depot and rent one of those. That’s where the community involvement kicks in: the Park and Rec Board and the VFD have cooperated in the past. 

You have participated in the chipper program in years past, and you may have noticed that not everything went smoothly. Camp Meeker’s narrow streets are problematic for large vehicles, and even once trees are chipped, a large volume of waste remains. These are problems that cannot be solved in the few hundred words of a newspaper column. I would heartily exhort my fellow Camp Meeker denizens to get involved. Go to Park and Rec Board meetings and give your constructive input. Offer to help. Once of the ideas bruited about at the SCF community meetings was that of a Camp Meeker e-mail list: that might be a far better way to get information to citizens in a timely manner than snail mail. Not that I’m suggesting we scrap that: even in the 21st century there are those who are not online. 

That’s about the extent of my wisdom this month. Please write in and tell me what I missed: I’m quite sure I will be talking about these issues in future columns.