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March 25, 2009 > Be fire safe

Be fire safe

By Meenu Gupta
Photos By Frank De Smidt

Milpitas is a "high fire risk community identified within the wildland-urban interface, the area where homes and wildlands intermix," according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Materials capable of causing a fire to spread, have to be cleared or changed to act as a barrier between an accidental wildland fire and residential property. Therefore, a defensible space of 100 feet around your house is required by law.

Clearing an area of 30 feet immediately around your property is essential. It is critical that this area is cleared of flammable vegetation or other fuels. The remaining 70 feet should ensure proper spacing, both horizontal and vertical, between trees. Remove the plants beneath large trees to prevent a vertical "fire ladder."

"Our Hazardous Fuel Reduction (HFR) Program helps residents create and maintain Defensible Space around their homes," said Jenn Viane Riese, Executive Coordinator, Santa Clara County FireSafe Council (SCFSC). Residents do the brush clearing work, the trimming work and create piles.

For residents who are 65 years or older or physically disabled or are financially unable to hire a contractor under these low income guidelines: 1 person, $40,000/year ($3,333/month); or 2 people, $50,000/year ($4,167/month), SCFSC offers Special Needs Assistance Program (SNAP). SCFSC will hire a contractor to do both the clearing, trimming and chipping work.

The chipping crew will work with the homeowner to determine the clearing that will be done. All material chipped will be blown back onto the property. The chips can be used for mulch. "These programs are no-cost to residents and are funded by National Fire Plan grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service through the California Fire Safe Council as well as local grants and donations from businesses and individuals.

"These programs are currently open to the high fire risk areas of the County, including Milpitas. We do, however, have limited funds available and encourage residents to take advantage of these programs before wildfire seasons begin and the risk of wildfire increases" said Riese.

"We also engage in Community Outreach and Education where we educate the public about wildfire prevention and the creation and maintenance of Defensible Space. As part of our efforts, we use the loveable icon Smokey Bear to help deliver our message" she said.

Smokey and SCFSC participate in several community events like Milpitas Art and Wine Festival last year, where the Smokey Bear was a big attraction for the kids. Visit for more information.

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