Community Meeting 2010

Snow’s over-time to think about fire. The Fire Safe Council sponsored a community meeting about fire on May 26 at the Idyllwild School, with two hours of presentation and discussion. Out of the many lessons to take away, I will focus on just a few.

On the prevention side, Chris Fogle and Dan Felix of the US Forest Service, and Kevin Turner of CALfire, spoke of the fuels projects around the mountain. Idyllwild-Pine Cove residents should feel reassured by the 11 fuel breaks surrounding the community. These would not necessarily stop a fire, but they would slow it down enough for the fire agencies to gain the upper hand.

Both Chris and Kevin mentioned an important fact regarding fuels reduction projects, which I will paraphrase this way: the time of big government money is over, so we now have to spend what money we have on maintaining our existing projects. The background here is that the huge bark beetle caused tree die-off that began around 2001 eventually resulted, thanks to Congressman Lewis and Senator Feinstein, in large federal grants to our area. This influx of money made possible fuels projects that the agencies had wanted to do for some time. Most of these projects are complete, and it is highly unlikely that we will get any similar funding in the near future, so the key word now is maintenance. What money is available must go towards maintaining all of the fuel break and evacuation route projects currently in place.

Regarding residents and fire, County Fire Chief John Hawkins argued for the “Ready, Set, Go” formula. The “ready” part of this refers to proper fire abatement of your house, making sure that hazardous fuels don’t provide a pathway directly to the structure. Most of us know this; if you don’t, call the Fire Safe Council (659-6208) for free consultation on what abatement should be done on your property.

The “set” part refers to evacuation planning in the event of an actual fire. The key here is to plan where you would go and what you would take if you needed to get out quickly. We all need a list, or a prepared bag, that makes leaving easier. We need to remember things like prescriptions, glasses, key documents, and our pets. Families should consider having an agreed on meeting point in the event of separation, and a third-party contact outside the area to help pass messages.

The “go” part means leave when the order is given. Don’t shelter in place, and don’t delay. Just leave, and let fire fighters do their jobs.

The last lesson to mention is about our fire agencies. It is clear to me that every agency is not only willing but eager to talk to the public on these matters. We had lots of highly trained and experienced fire personnel in the gymnasium, all willing to talk to anyone interested about abatement or fire suppression. Norm Walker, Interim Chief of Idyllwild Fire, spoke for all when he talked about working with all residents towards success.