Reducing the risks to your home from wildfire for free, in Ventura County
Have you considered ways to better protect your home from the dangers of wildfires?
Natasha Saxena is standing outside one of the 99 homes at the Golden Oaks Mobile Home Park in Ojai — she's the Firewise Coordinator for nonprofit Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council. She's been invited by the homeowner to assess ways their home could be more prepared for wildfire.
"I can see that she has a deck. So with decks, I always keep in mind how they're built," she explained to KCLU. "And if they're closed off, it's great that it is closed off. But I do see a couple of openings which will allow ember intrusions."
"I see she has a huge oak tree, a very mature oak tree right in front of her home. And what's wonderful about that is normally when a tree is very mature, it doesn't pose the biggest risk. It's more of the debris that falls from the tree. So I can see this debris right up against her home, too," she said.
It's a quiet community apart from the occasional leaf blower or small dog barking. But this age 55 plus estate is in a high fire risk area.
"With a park like this, where the homes are so close together, it's so important to have neighbor helping neighbor to get each home more resilient is going to make the whole park to be more resilient to wildfire," said Saxena.
Homeowner Louise Shaffer is 91 and uses a wheelchair. She says she's been previously evacuated in the Thomas Fire, but she says if it happened again, she wouldn't want to leave her home of 27 years.
Saxena is joined by Shaffer's aide, Thomas, as they start the assessment at the front of the property. A large oak tree shades the front deck where Louise waits as we walk around the exterior of her mobile home.
Saxena points out the material of the sidings - aluminum.
"Aluminum tends to melt down. If there's enough radiant heat," she explained.
Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council have conducted around 170 assessments like this so far this year, which has seen 12.5 tons of hazardous palm trees trimmed and 14 homes retrofitted. But for residents like Louise, who are on a fixed or low income, it's not as simple as wanting to make changes. It can be expensive.
"There's a lot to do. Normally, when we go around the home, there are a lot of things we're asking of them, but there are little things that one can do, and every little bit helps. So even if it's just cleaning up the leaves, putting some screening on them, cracks in the foundation, that's something," said Stephen Watson, the executive director of the Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council.
"And some of the bigger things that we're asking of them. The Fire Safety Council is always trying to seek grant funding to assist homeowners, especially older adults or low income," said Watson.
There are no 100% guarantees, but finding ways to make our communities more fire resilient is one way that residents like Louise can feel less powerless should a wildfire threaten her home again.