For anyone who was unable to attend the August 24, 2021 webinar on wildfire home safety, we have included a video recap below. We have also made the slide deck presentation available. We hope it will be beneficial in preparing your home for wildfire season.
Is there a local company who will make the signs to certain specs? Who determines what they should look like? Are there any grants available to help our communities get those green signs for our areas and specific properties?
Information for sign specifications can be found on our website: https://napafirewise.org/address-signs-what-you-need-to-know/ Napa County uses green signs with reflective numbers for home addresses. These can be made to order at the Angwin Ace Hardware, or ordered online on Amazon and run about $20 each. Standard 911 sign for addresses is reflective material (green/red) and is 6″ by 18″ with white reflective numbers. Signs listing available resources for first responders, including access, water supply, hydrants, etc, can be made out of the same material but can be sized appropriately. 2′ x 4′. Check with your local FSC for more help or to brainstorm funding a signage campaign for your neighborhood.
General Defensible Space Requirements
What is considered a code infraction as it relates to defensible space? Is there a fine?
There is a list of code violations listed on the inspections form. Once a violation is identified you as the homeowner have a period of time to correct the violation with no fine. https://www.countyofnapa.org/3134/Defensible-Space-Chipper-Program
5-Foot Zone Around Structures
Can redwood decks be “painted” with something nonflammable or somehow made less flammable?
There are fire resistant paints but there are limits to their effectiveness. Ideally decks have barrier skirting around them and you should have the ability to prevent leaf debris from accumulating under the deck. Ideally decks are made of heavy timber or iron wood/ipe
Does a 5 foot ember-free zone mean that I can’t have any vegetation next to the house?
The objective is to minimize flammable vegetation next to your structure. The county ordinance states: “Ember Resistant Zone” means a noncombustible zone within 5 feet of a structure, using non-flammable landscaping materials and/or approved high-moisture-content annuals and perennials. It’s important to keep the landscaping plants near the house free of dead leaves which can catch fire.
30-Foot Zone Around Structures
I am using gravel in the landscape, but using it on the entire property around the house is cost-prohibitive.
Focus on the 30′ perimeter.
Can we hire a shepherd and a flock of goats that goes from property to property to cut down on ladder fuels?
There are providers who have herds of goats and you can work with your neighbors to coordinate a bigger swath of work than one property.We have gathered some resources here: https://napafirewise.org/learning-center/fire-prevention-vendors/
We have large Redwood trees near the house (we’re in a Calistoga neighborhood). We get them trimmed so branches don’t hang over the roof. Anything else to do about trees?
It sounds like you are doing the right thing, keeping the branches 6-8 feet above the ground prevents fire from getting into the tree. One thing to be mindful of is the needles that drop from the tree are highly flammable, so you’ll want to keep those cleaned up.
What do you recommend for weed control on a large property if wood chips/mulch is not recommended?
Rock mulch: focus on the 30 foot perimeter around your home.
100-Foot Zone Around Structures
What if my hundred foot defensible space is on someone else’s property?
We encourage you to work with your neighbors to align around the need for fuel reduction.
What can I do if my neighbor isn’t cooperative in reducing fuel within my 100′ defensible space or along a shared driveway?
You can call the NCFD, Erick Hernandez who’s the compliance officer. 707-299-7645 firstname.lastname@example.org Visit the County Fire Marshall website for more information: https://www.countyofnapa.org/3134/Defensible-Space-Chipper-Program
What resources, in addition to the great chipping service, are available to help homeowners harden or create defensible space?
Reach out to NRCS in Napa on Jefferson. Programs from USDA Natural Resources Conservation services. Reach out to your local Fire Safe Council to brainstorm ideas to help neighbors and fundraise to help offset cost for neighborhood safety.
What can we do in a city neighborhood that’s near the mountains?
Defensible space, home hardening, work together as a community to create fuel breaks and clear roadways for ingress (firefighters coming in) and egress (residents evacuating). Working together as a community can be both more effective and less expensive.
Defensible Space Resources
Does NCFF endorse any particular vendors to provide defensible space services?
No, we don’t endorse any vendors, but we have a list of several vendors on our website.
Are certain plants better or worse than others when planted around my house?
Yes, there is a list of fire resistant plants that can be found online or through the master gardeners association. Plants like rosemary, Italian Cypress and juniper are highly flammable and should be removed and replaced with less flammable plants. See our website for more information: https://napafirewise.org/learning-center/defensible-space/
Actions of others
How do we get the cities to be more proactive in the defensible space challenge?
You need to approach the fire marshal of that municipality. If there isn’t a fire marshal, contact the fire department that covers the area.
How do you address this in a town where homes are closer together and not everyone is on the same pages?
In Napa reach out to Erick Hernandez at 707-299-7645 email@example.com at the County Fire Marshal’s office. In St. Helena, work with the growing FSC for help. Contact Chris Warner at (415) 309-9572 or chrisjwarner52[at]gmail[dot]com.
There are so many absentee owners who own dozens of forested acres of land adjacent to our land. Who monitors their property? Does anyone in the county reach out to them to get them to comply?
For general forest land that is not within defensible space of structures, contact them to see if you can engage and educate them. For forest that is within defensible space, it’s best to report them and force them into compliance. Visit the County Fire Marshal website for more information: https://www.countyofnapa.org/3134/Defensible-Space-Chipper-Program
Why would a winery plant dozens of extremely flammable Italian Cypress in the burn scar? Who educates these wineries?
Agreed, not a good tree for this area! The County is changing the landscaping permit process, but that’s on new projects. As for existing landscaping, it’s about community outreach and education.
Please define Shaded fuel break?
Think of trees that are limbed up, to keep ground fires from transitioning to the tree canopies, and then torching. Then think of the forest litter mostly removed, below the canopy. The term means the trees are still in place, but the ground litter is significantly removed, and the area is shaded by the trees.
Fuel Mitigation Funding
How does a community apply for a fuel mitigation grant? What is the $$ range and where do we find the application? Is there a deadline?
Property owners can apply for funds to do work on their property at USDA, NRCS. Communities should prioritize their projects and have NCFF include them in our efforts. Get involved with a FSC, and then work through that FSC to access grants using the NCFF grant application process.
What does it take to get money to support work in private areas? How does this work?
Reach out to NRCS in Napa. They can help you with the application process for either EQIP or the FSA program. The application process is pretty straightforward, and they can help you to see if you qualify and secure it.
Do you fund work on private property?
We have only a few options to fund private property. We’re working on more opportunities, but at this point it’s limited.
Fuel Mitigation Prescribed Fire
Do these efforts include prescribed burns
Prescribed burns are part of the strategy but need to be done with extreme caution. Considerable advance work needs to be done to prep for a prescribed burn. A Prescribed Fire Association will be forming soon in Napa County.
Fuel Mitigation in Riparian Zone
How can we get Fish & Game to take responsibility for those parts of Napa River & Sulphur Creek that are very close to inhabited property and yet have unbelievable amounts of fuel creating indefensible space?
These are potential projects which could be added to our plans. It may require environmental review and clearance to do the work. DF&G will not do the work. They will merely approve that work can proceed. Our plans include CEQA review so that we can do these projects, but things are prioritized over several years.
What about those of us on the river? We have a ton of brush and debris that is created from storms, wind, etc. but we aren’t allowed to touch the river line. When the river dries up, as it is in our area now due to the drought, it is a perfect time to clear out the brush but we aren’t allowed. What should we do?
Related Question: My home is at the end of a private road bordered on one side by a usually year round creek that feeds Napa River. There is a lot of vegetation and live and dead trees in the creek. The creek is down a steep bank not easily accessible from any property. Who is responsible for creating a defensible space in and along the creek?
The unfortunate reality is that once we move into riverbeds, strict regulations from resource agencies curtail what can be done and road blocks are encountered. We’re in conversations with Sen Dodd and his office to work on changing some of the ways and means that we get permission to do mitigation work. The agencies that govern us need to catch up with the realities of our situation here in the valley. In the meantime, it may be possible to create a shaded fuel break buffer between your property and the creek. Invasive exotic plants (French broom, vinca), may be removed using hand tools up to 20 feet from the creek bank. In the process of removing those exotics, it might turn out that some lower branches are removed and dead material near the bank also taken away. This would apply to 20-feet from the creek bank itself.
Fuel Mitigation for Water Supply
Is there special attention to protecting watersheds that feed into our county’s drinking water systems? Am I correct that if those watersheds burn, they can increase sedimentation of our reservoirs and possibly pollute the reservoirs with chemicals emitted by burned PVC piping, etc?
You are correct about the importance of watersheds and the impacts that wildfire can have on drinking water supply. Drainages are a key component of our strategies for rural areas.
How will fire and evacuation notices be issued if power and cell towers are down?
Hi-Lo sirens as deputy sheriffs go door to door
What is wet draft that we saw on the 911 sign?
Wet Draft hydrants are fire department connections that connect directly to your water source.
Forest Management: Dead Trees
What options are there for large property owners with massive Ponderosa Pine die back (hundreds of flugelhorn dead trees) in the Angwin area? These trees are a threat to safety and are outside the 100 foot clearing work you are doing and the required 100 ft clearing from structures. Each day additional trees are dying and are a safety threat to our neighborhood being to evacuate safely. Thank you.
There is very limited funding to move onto private residences. We’re well aware of the mess the Glass Fire left, and rest assured we’re turning over every stone we find to see if we can find funds to help homeowners. Most of the funding we have access to has very strict limitations on how the funds can be used.
What is the fire risk of standing vs. downed dead trees?
Small diameter dead trees should be dropped and chipped. Large diameter dead trees should be dropped if they are a hazard to falling on a home, blocking a road, or injuring someone. But if not then leaving it standing minimizes the surface area that can catch fire should a new fire come into the area. If the large diameter tree is dropped, it can be left or bucked up: the wood becomes fuel on the ground, but they don’t represent as much of a fuel hazard if they are large in diameter.
Fire Safe Councils (FSC)
What is the role of the FSC?
FSCs represent a given geography or area. The FSC works to identify and prioritize fuel reduction projects in that area and also works to communicate and educate their residents.
How do you get on your list, such as Soda Canyon?
Home Hardening and Fire Protection
How to protect your home when traveling?
That’s going to be your responsibility, as the homeowner. Harden your home and create defensible space. Make sure first responders can find your home with 911 signage. Perhaps have a friend or family member keep an eye on it.
How to fireproof asphalt shingles – heard there are sprays. Is there one you recommend and how often do they need to be reapplied?
Asphalt shingles are a class A fire rated material.
How do you prioritize home hardening steps?
First you need to get an evaluation done by an organization who knows how to do this. We have a program in Mt Veeder for residents in the lower Mayacamas. The evaluation helps to prioritize the work. Focus on Defensible space first. Reach out to Napa Firewise and we can help you
- Clean gutters
- Clean debris off roof
- Remove all flammable material from 5′ around your house
- Replace vents with fire resistant vents, like Vulcan Vents, as an example
- Remove any overhanging branches to your roof
If I have a limited budget do I concentrate on home hardening or defensible space?
Defensible space. First and foremost, REMOVE WOOD CHIPS FROM AROUND YOUR HOUSE! If you keep fire from pushing up against your home, then home hardening can be done over a period of time, on the expensive parts. That said, work on the easy items for home hardening such as remove debris from gutters. Remove flammable bushes from around your home. Then if you can, put gutter guards on.
Is there any type of “fireproof box” that can cover a propane tank, to help reduce the chance of an explosion?
The best solution here is to bury the tank. Which is more expensive but more likely to protect it. You can’t put it in a container because code requires the tank to be able to dissipate if it leaks. Make sure there is nothing flammable near your propane tank.
Will this help me with my insurance
It may help with your insurance. We encourage you to reach out to your insurance company. They may have a partnership with a company that can do evaluations. The NCFF is working with Sen Dodd and Sacramento to get the insurance companies to better work with us, and you, the homeowner. Right now, they are not easy to work with. We’re hoping to change that.
NCFF and the 5 Year Plan
How were the priorities of the projects in the 5 year plan decided? How do you decide who gets the money?
Priorities were determined with Cal Fire. Funding prioritization is developed with Cal Fire based on population density and the availability of access and egress. More information can be found here: https://napafirewise.org/programs/napa-county-community-wildfire-protection-plan/
What new firefighting resources will be available to Napa this year?
We’re fire prevention, that’s fire suppression. That’s a good question for Chief Martin.
No projects for Soda Canyon?
We have a variety of projects in the Soda Canyon area in our plan. They are projects prioritized in the plan of the SCFSC. To learn more, visit the GIS story map of the 5 year plan here: https://ncff-cwpp-dms-usa.hub.arcgis.com/
How will fire fuel mitigation projects be funded going forward?
I am a trustee on the board of a family foundation. Who would I contact to arrange a grant from our foundation to NCFF?
Thank you! Please contact Gretchen Hayes at gretchen[at]napafirewise[dot]org
Does the website’s major project list include regular updates on specific active projects for individuals to access directly?
Sorry, not yet. Good idea though. Available information on project updates can be viewed here: https://ncff-cwpp-dms-usa.hub.arcgis.com/datasets/1f326c78995940048ee1d7f16a998df6/explore?location=38.505377%2C-122.372080%2C10.45
PG&E Cut Tree Removal
PG&E has left downed trees and massive cut stumps. In and outside burn zone, along roads and on private property. What do we do?
PG&E Wildfire Wood Management Program is supposed to be removing the trees that they cut down and left (not sure about stumps) but you should file a formal request and copy your supervisor. 1-877-295-4949 or wildfiresafety[at]pge[dot]com
Post Fire Recovery: New Vegetation Management
What are your best resources to help us deal with the new tree and shrub growth that is growing in forested lands that were burned in the Glass Fire?
Please research USDA programs that discussed in the presentation: FSA ERFP and EQIP. The contact email is Evelyn.Denzin[at]USDA[dot]gov.
Post Fire Recovery – Erosion and Mudslides
This winter, if we have more rain than usual, the denuded hillsides up valley may experience mud slides. What preparation can be made to avoid mudslide disasters?
Napa RCD is working with landowners to mitigate against erosion events. Landslides/mudslides are an issue after wildfires.