Fire SAFE Sonoma - Inspections - Education - Wildfire prevention
By Amie Windsor
The Meyers and Walbridge Fires left scars along the western fronts of Sonoma County, and the Glass Fire is consuming east county as we go to press. Is the worst of fire season is over yet? Neighbors in these fire-ravaged areas are turning to recovery mode seeking FEMA assistance tools for rebuilding or moving on.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that more than 3 million acres have burned in California this year, fire season has really only just started.
“We’re in the thick of it now,” said Roberta MacIntyre, board president of Fire Safe Sonoma.
Fire Safe Sonoma is an area nonprofit formed in 1998 whose mission is to increase awareness of wildfire issues around the county. The organization has been instrumental in helping educate residents about wildfire prevention and safety, especially through distribution of their publications, “Living with Fire in Sonoma County” and “Ready, Set, Go.”
“Our number one goal? We want people to be able to get out. Then we want to protect property and in doing so, let’s try not to destroy the environment along the way.
Working with the environment is key.
Our rural environments here in Sonoma County need extra attention,” MacIntyre said. “We have more roads per capita than any other county in California, making maintenance difficult. And we need resources.”
MacIntyre, Sonoma County’s fire marshal from 2008 to 2015 has more than 35 years experience has a city firefighter. She was brought into Fire Safe Sonoma for her expertise and knowledge. Along with former Sonoma County Fire Chief Vern Losh, current county fire marshal James Williams, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marshall Turbeville, Assistant Fire Marshal for Santa Rosa Paul Lowenthall and others, the group worked to create the county’s first Community Wildlfire Protection Plan.
“The CWPP identifies wildland fire risks and details fire hazards,” MacIntyre said.
The CWPP is currently back at the County and will be reworked by a yet-to-be-named consultant group along with Caerleon Stafford, Sonoma County’s Fire Inspector, whose expertise on vegetation management and fire mitigation has been integral since the Tubbs Fire struck three years ago.
“She has become the face for Fire Safe Sonoma,” MacInyre said.
With the county’s CWPP off Fire Safe Sonoma’s shoulders, the organization is focused on providing smaller, scalable CWPPs for communities like Mill Creek, Occidental and Sonoma Valley. In each CWPP, Fire Safe Sonoma identifies fuels reduction needs, evacuation route issues and the need for better alert systems.
MacIntyre said the group was in the throes of completing Mill Creek Community Wilfire Protection Plan when the Walbridge Fire struck.
The plans empower communities to take more control of their immediate environments, especially the rural areas within the WUI – or wildland urban interface – so that when fire strikes, they have a plan.
“We have to become comfortable with evacuation. We have to be ready to go,” MacIntyre said. She admitted that before the Walbridge Fire she was a ‘stay and defend girl.’
“I’m 63. I’m still healthy. I’m not going anywhere,” she said. MacIntyre rates her Middletown house a seven or eight of 10 for structural hardening. She keeps working on it one vent at a time, acknowledging that structural hardening can be expensive and daunting.
“But it’s like eating an elephant; you do it one bite at a time,” MacIntyre said.
When it comes down to it, MacIntyre realized that staying to defend her home wasn’t worth it, and that risking her life for her insurance company isn’t worth it either.
To learn more about Fire Safe Sonoma and to sign up for their regular Zoom classes, visit www.firesafesonoma.org. You can sign up for emailed NEWSSLETTERS to stay current with what is happening at Fire Safe Sonoma and subscribe to updates: lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/RiS2Gf9/newsletter
FREE Wildland Fire Assessment Program
Countless communities, homes, and lives have been lost in California due to disastrous wildfires over the past several years and this trend is likely to continue.
Much of Sonoma County is considered by CAL FIRE to be a High Fire Severity Area or a Very High Fire Severity Area, which means YOUR home is likely to be more susceptible to wildfire. It’s not a question of IF it will happen, but WHEN. Will your home survive when a wildfire strikes?
Fire Safe Sonoma is offering FREE home assessments to help you be proactive in protecting your family and property and to make sure our community doesn’t become another statistic. Trained assessors working with Fire Safe Sonoma will perform a step-by-step walk-through of your property with you on-site and provide guidance, tips, and resources to educate you about areas in and around your home that are more vulnerable to wildfire.