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Firefighters ask homeowners to lend helping hand

Brush inspections are only one part of ideal wildfire safety protocols in La Cañada Flintridge.

June 01, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
  • Los Angeles County Fire Assistant Chief Bill Niccum, from left, Mayor Dave Spence and Capt. Michael McCormick discuss proper wildfire prevention tactics near a home on Starlight Crest Drive on Tuesday, May 31, 2011. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer)
Los Angeles County Fire Assistant Chief Bill Niccum,…

Firefighters in La Cañada Flintridge are urging homeowners to “harden” their homes against the threat of wildfires by complying with ongoing department brush clearance inspections and taking extra steps to secure their properties against the potential threat of free-flying embers.

Since May 1, teams from L.A. County Fire Station 82 on the city’s east side have been conducting annual brush clearance inspections at some 450 homes along the La Cañada’s forest-adjacent northern perimeter as well as hilly and wooded areas to the south.

Hundreds of other homes west of Chevy Chase are currently under inspection by teams from Fire Station 19 on the city’s west side.

“The message is: Help us help you. Give us a better opportunity to save your home, and you can do that by providing clearances so we don’t have to put our people at great risk to protect it when fire is coming through,” L.A. County Assistant Fire Chief Bill Niccum said Tuesday during a discussion of home wildfire safety protocols at Station 82 that was also attended by Mayor Dave Spence.

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In 2009, fire officials throughout California introduced the Ready! Set! Go! Wildfire Action Plan, encouraging homeowners to “ready” fire-defensible landscapes, “set” evacuation plans, and “go” early if evacuated in order to clear the way for firefighters.

According to county fire regulations, homeowners in high fire-risk areas must thin out vegetation to varying degrees up to 200 feet from their homes and correct other potential hazards or else face fire code citations that could result in fines and abatement.

After the meeting, firefighters traveled up Starlight Crest Drive to point out an area where hillside homeowners had properly scaled back vegetation to slow or prevent flames from climbing out of a wooded canyon toward their homes.

In addition to enforcing requirements for carving out such “defensible spaces,” firefighters offer free voluntary consultations for those who wish to further fireproof their homes by sealing off areas such as gaps in garage doors, open eaves and attic vents — “any place that might be susceptible to the intrusion of embers that roll with the wind,” said Niccum.

Following at least basic safety protocols, said Firefighter Specialist Jerry Wolak of Station 82, could make all the difference in whether firefighters can successfully save a threatened home.

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