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New program offers fire safety inspections for at-risk homes in wildfire danger zones in Ventura County

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The Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council's Max Young does a wildfire safety inspection at Heidi Ortloff's Santa Paula home.

Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council gets Cal Fire grant to do free inspections, and provide safety tips.

We’re on a unique new home inspection tour in Ventura County, one intended to help homeowners protect their property against wildfires.

Max Young is a Wildfire Safety Liaison with the Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council. He’s at the Santa Paula home of Heidi Ortloff. She bought a home on the northeast side of the city a year ago with beautiful views from her backyard, but it’s also up against an orchard, and some grassy open space.

Ortloff is one of the first people to take advantage of the Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council’s new Home Hardening Resiliency Program.

Mayra DeLeon is a Wildfire Safety Liaison with the Fire Safe Council. She said the focus is on things like plants and trees which are too close to homes, vents which might allow embers into a house, and wooden fences and gates which could spread flames to structures.

Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council Board President Mike LePlant, who's also a retired Ventura County Deputy Fire Chief, said while people in high wildfire risk areas do the mandatory 100 foot brush clearance around structures, there’s much more which can be done to improve safety,

The free Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council inspection program is a pilot program funded by Cal Fire. The goal is to inspect at least 400 homes during the next two years. The Fire Safe Council’s Pepper Dee said some people are stepping up to get the inspections, but they are doing outreach to let others know about the program.

As Young continues his survey of Ortloff’s Santa Paula home, he notes some plants which are up against the walls of the house.

He also points out that the wooden fences connected to the home by wooden gates could spread a fire to the home. And, her suggests covers for some vents so embers from a fire don’t get into the house.

Young said homeowners will get a report detailing the potential wildfire safety improvements.

Ortloff said she has work to do, but feels many of the recommendations are easy, and inexpensive to implement.

The Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council has an interactive link on its website which identifies high wildfire danger areas in Ventura County.

County residents can use it to see if they are in one of those zones, and also schedule one of the free home hardening inspections.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.