Special Edition Newsletter - Firewise Renewal 2020

 The Fountaingrove II Open Space Maintenance Association (OSMA) qualified Fountaingrove II (FGII) as a national recognized Firewise USA® Community in October 2009. Since that time, it has renewed its qualified status by holding eleven annual meetings. Over the years, many fire safety professionals have attended the meetings as speakers and panel members, discussing fire safety measures taken on Common Open Space by OSMA and providing education and encouragement about steps homeowners should take to live more safely in a Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). See https://www.fountaingroveii.com/about-osma for a brief backgrounder of the OSMA and a link to its website and mission statement.


Because of restraints from COVID-19, the OSMA is renewing its 2020 Firewise USA® status by publishing this special fire safety newsletter to its residents. We hope you find this information informative and useful in hardening your home and landscape against a future wildfire. OSMA’s renewal of Firewise USA® will enable homeowners with USAA policies to continue to receive their 5% premium credit. See https://www.fountaingroveii.com/firewise-usa for a brief backgrounder on Firewise USA® and the link to its website.

What Homeowners Can Do About Fire Safety
Harden Your Home

  • Keep all vegetation and combustible material, including mulch, 5’ away from your house:

This is the "Ignition Free Zone" (IFZ)!  It's tough to rethink and redesign our landscapes to which we've grown accustomed and attached, but the fact is that embers love to land and grow in whatever is available next to your house. The five foot perimeter around the foundation of your home is the area where you want nothing that is combustible - no wood pile, no door mat, no plants, no mulch.  It's your most important defense area that will either help or hinder a fire when it blows embers towards your property.  A good resource for information is at: https://ucanr.edu/sites/fire/Prepare/Building/  or

https://www.firesafesonoma.org/wp-content/uploads/living_with_fire.pdf

 

  • Do not attach a wooden gate, fence, shed or any other combustible item to your house:

If your wood fence connects directly to your home and you have a gate made of wood, change that gate to a metal one.  Make sure you have 3-5’ of distance between the house and your wood fence. Do not give fire (even from a toppled barbecue next door) a chance to be drawn to your home using the wooden fence, gate or shed as a wick. NOTE:  On August 25, 2020, the Santa Rosa City Council approved staff recommendations to amend its Codes and adopt a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). This approval will enable the City to improve its chances of receiving fire prevention grants and enable it to adopt policies to enforce compliance with a 3’ to 5’ Ignition Free Zone (IFZ) for new homes or major remodels within a WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) of Santa Rosa.  The City will be posting the CWPP on its website, and you will be notified of where to access it.

 

  • Keep your roof, gutters, decks, and patios maintained so they are free of debris such as leaves, needles and other combustible material and debris.

 

  1. Deck:  Make sure it is built using ignition resistant or non-combustible materials, and research the right way to enclose and maintain the underside where embers can land.  
  2. Vents to crawl space and attic:  These are classic passageways for embers to enter your home.  Make sure yours have mesh that is no larger than 1/8” and meets the wildfire standards of Chapter 7A of the building code. There are three recommended vents included on the above web link of Fire Safe Marin.  
  3. Windows:  Install tempered glass windows to provide more resistance to breakage from heat.
  4. Exterior of House:  Replace any wood siding with fiber cement siding or stucco.  
  5. Eaves:  Enclose them with horizontal soffits as shown in the link to Fire Safe Marin.  
  6. Gutter Covers:  Install them to diminish the debris that collects in gutters.    
  7. Garage Door Openers:  Install one with a battery backup so escape is easy even when power is out.
  8. House address numbers should be 4” high and clearly visible from the street by the Fire Department. 

 

 

Create Defensible Space


The link at: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Wildfire/Preparing-homes-for-wildfire has good examples on how to create defensible space, including:

 

  •  Landscape in a Firewise Manner:

Alleviate fire spreading from landscape plants by eliminating masses and creating islands. Give plants some breathing room!  Keep plants and their branches away from the roof, eaves and from under windows. Check to see if plants are green on the outside, but brown and twiggy on the inside. If so, prune out the dead stuff or replace the entire plant as appropriate. The link at http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/Firewise_Landscaping/ has some good ideas.

 

  • Weed Abate:

Keep your property free of flash fuels such as dry grasses and weeds. The City of Santa Rosa has a weed abatement ordinance that is reviewed annually by Santa Rosa Fire and renewed/approved annually by the City Council. The ordinance requires homeowners living in a WUI such as FGII to keep their weeds and grasses abated to 4” or less from the beginning of fire season to its end. This time frame usually starts in late May and extends through October or later, depending on when significant rains start.

 

  • Create required fire-safe zones for fire department employees 
    1. Clear plant growth and debris off driveways and sidewalks around your house
    2. Ensure fire hydrants on your property have a minimum 5 feet of vertical clearance  

 


Develop a Family Plan for Evacuation for Wildfires 

  1. GO Bags that are packed and ready for evacuations with necessary items
  2. See suggestions of some items to pack at https://srcity.org/3182/Preparedness-Tips
  3. Clearing area around the home so it can be accessed safely by fire-fighting personnel
  4. Turning off Gas lines if time permits
  5. Knowing where family/household members will meet after evacuation
  6. Ensuring family/household members are signed up for Soco Alerts and Nixle messaging.
  7. Be aware of Red Flag Warning Days and take steps to improve your safety on those days:  https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=27541

 

Become Educated on fire safety so you can act quickly and correctly when necessary. A cool head is crucial to the safety of your family/household members in an emergency, and time is of the essence. Good ideas can be found at: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Wildfire/Firewise-USA/Online-learning-opportunities/Online-courses
 
Another good planning resource is FireSafe Sonoma’s Ready, Set, Go! brochure which can be accessed at: https://srcity.org/DocumentCenter/View/23630/FireSafe-Sonoma


What OSMA Has Done About Fire Safety


The OSMA manages about 234 acres of Open Space, of which 18 acres are fuel-reduced landscape parcels along streets and the remaining 216 acres are forested parcels. Over 50% of the forested land has been fuel-reduced and is weed-abated annually under a program which is monitored by its governing documents and Santa Rosa Fire. Most of OSMA’s dues money is spent on fuel reduction and its fuel reduction/safety work has been inspected and monitored by various fire agencies and fire hazard consultants who have praised the association for its efforts and diligence. While these comments about OSMA’s achievements and annual fuel reduction program are pleasing to hear, the dues money spent on fire safety is mitigated if FGII homeowners do not also maintain their own properties in a fire-safe manner, as it is the fuels closest to the home that are the most insidious.  

The OSMA’s most recent annual report can be accessed at: https://www.fountaingroveii.com/sites/default/files/upload/annual_report_year_2019_from_osma_to_santa_rosa_pedd_12.29.2019_final_.pdf
 

 

For the Safety of Your Family/Household
Be Prepared for the New Normal 
   

 
Calmatters.org states: “Fourteen of the 20 most destructive fires in state history have occurred since 2007, and California has 78 more annual “fire days” now than it had 50 years ago. Now each year could surpass the last, setting records for the size, destruction, cost, and loss of life. A state-commissioned report makes the harrowing projection that under current emissions trends, the average burn area in California will increase 77 percent by the end of the century.” 

In October 2017, the Fountaingrove neighborhoods experienced the Tubbs Firestorm and nearly 80% of its residences were destroyed within a very short period of time.  Then, in October 2019, FGII residents had to evacuate due to the Kincade Fire that burned to the borders of Fountaingrove.
 
The City of Santa Rosa received a FEMA Grant to prepare a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) in 2020. Meetings were held with the residents of the City to gather input and provide not only a history of wildfires, but also warn that there are areas nearby the City that have large amounts of old vegetation that is a tinderbox because the areas have not burned in 85–100 years.  Information about the CWPP (recently approved by the City Council) and related topics can be accessed at: https://srcity.org/596/Wildland-Urban-Interface
 
With climate change, the danger of another fire menacing our neighborhood grows every year.  It is taking a foolish risk to ignore or flout the lessons from the recent 2017 and 2019 - and even this year's - local wildfires.  
 
Since fire danger is real and will recur in the near term, be ready and be prepared to take safe and immediate action when necessary. Get educated NOW and implement steps to lessen the dangers to your family/household and the community at large.  

 

PG&E Outages – Be Prepared

  1. Necessary for medical needs 
  2. Cost feasible to install for key items such as refrigerators
  3. A justifiable convenience and standard of living choice for most or all of the residence

Note: FGII did not incur any outages during 2019, but there are no assurances of what will be the actions taken by PG&E in the future.