Firewise Program in Placer County Aims to Prevent Wildfires

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While just about everyone is relishing in the strong pattern or recent El Nino storms, others in the community are seeing it as a prime opportunity to protect themselves against future wildfires once the hot weather returns.

There are many ways in which individual or corporate landowners can help reduce the dangers of too much overgrowth or fire fuels on their properties.

In Placer County, the Firewise program is making great strides in doing just that.

"It's giving the firefighters an area to work within when the first start," said Luana Dowling, the Firewise coordinator for Placer County.

Dowling and her team have been working with both communities and corporate landowners to create strategically placed fuel breaks along the many ridges of Foresthill.

"They can actually get in here with equipment, get in here with hand tools. Be able to fight fire," she said.

In other words, firefighters can more efficiently fight wildfires because of these fuel breaks.

"The wider we can make these fuel breaks, typically 300 feet or so, the opportunity for that fire to lay down is much better, in a better defensive mode, so we can fight the fire," said former Foresthill Battalion Chief Gary Kirk.

Since Kirk has been on the front lines of a wildfire, he's using that knowledge to assist the Firewise program in the placement of the fuel breaks.

And right now, the weather is prime for clearing all the brush and tree limbs that not only make a wildfire hotter but can keep it burning at a faster and quicker pace. Crews are actively working the ridges of Foresthill in January.

But that is only part of the effort.

Firewise communities are being created throughout Placer County. Ealgescrest is a community of about 30 homes that started the program last year.

"I had some work on my house, yeah," said homeowner Jarred Amalong.  "I definitely learned a lot from that consultation."

Amalong and his neighborhood learned quite a few things about creating defensible space around their properties.

"It's comforting. We feel like, as a community, we can really prepare for the fire season."

Funding for the Firewise program mostly involves grant money, something Dowling assists with.

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