Kern Fire Safe Council visits chamber

Wendy Ward of Kern Fire Safe Council

Photos and Story by Catherine Stachowiak

Wendy Ward Fire Mitigation Coordinator with the Kern Fire Safe Council spoke at the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce meeting, Wednesday, May 8.

Ward told the chamber that having grown up in Kernville she is familiar with evacuations, fire mitigation, roadside clearance and home hardening.

The Fire Safe Council’s three branches at one point disbanded.  The branches later determined to revive, becoming the one Kern County Fire Safe Council.  She hopes others would join the council as volunteers. 

The council has applied for a grant to be a pilot for the State of California, to identify areas needing mitigation partnered with the Kern River Ranger District.  The council also works with the Bureau of Land Management and Kern County Fire Department toward its fire prevention goals.

The council offers educational programs for grades 4 and 5 students teaching disaster planning, evacuation and preparation.  The council’s educational program helps students understand their footprint in the forest.

Protect Our Home by Beth Orehosky was featured in the Kern Fire Safe Council’s art contest

The Kern Fire Safe Council encourages home hardening and property clearance for homeowners and renters. The council wants to create Fire Wise Communities.  They propose to encourage communities to establish grass roots committees beginning fire safety neighborhood watches.  The council hopes the volunteer groups would plan to become fire wise and ultimately attain better insurance rates.

“Being a fire wise community could possibly help you retain your insurance,” she said. “Working with your neighbors you will have compliers. You will have ones that will not do what they need to do, and that’s just the nature of it. But doing what you can reduces the opportunity for wildfire to spread to your home and to yourself.” 

Ward said that a minimum of eight residents would be needed to form each Fire Wise Group. Not everyone in the neighborhood has to participate with the Fire Wise Group.  However those not complying would not reap the benefits of the group.  Ward posed the idea of neighbors complying through volunteering a certain amount of hours toward the group’s fire prevention goals.

Ward warned the chamber that ultimately such Fire Wise Groups could become mandated because of newer insurance expectations.  She said it would be easier to get in on forming such groups at the outset of the movement towards that goal.