Treasure what you have. For reasons only known by you, you have chosen to purchase a piece of a true island paradise located more than a mile high in the sky. Big Bear offers plenty of outdoor adventure and a sense of living within a mountain environment, where you most likely know your neighbor.

The unfortunate reality is you and your neighbor's piece of paradise may be at risk. Overgrown dense vegetation growing within the home ignition zone needs to be substantially reduced. Some homes need improvements to construction features such as the removal of wood shake/single roofs and installation of non-ember intrusion vents.

As Fire Chief, I am currently receiving phone calls from residents like you telling me that they just received a possible cancellation notice from their insurance carrier that has provided insurance for many years. Telling them that vegetation growing next to the home must be removed or their insurance policy will be cancelled.

Insurance companies have taken interest in the mountain communities due to the recent fires, and the loss of over 200 homes in the Running Springs and Lake Arrowhead area. Fire agencies have tried for years to educate and inform residents of this potential hazard with a request to remove light flash fuels, brush, and small trees to create defensible space.

In many cases, insurance companies are now demanding that property owners take steps towards creating defensible space. In some cases, the house requires construction features upgrades to make the house fire resistive. Notice to improve from insurance companies has been very effective and produces results. The risk of losing your home to a wildfire is just as real as the potential to lose insurance coverage. You, the property owner, must take steps to reduce the amount and arrangement of vegetation on your property.

In the event of a catastrophic wildland or urban conflagration fire, fire fighters will aggressively defend and protect your house provided you have taken the necessary steps of creating defensible space around your home. The key word is "defensible". If you provide it, fire fighters will defend it. fire fighters are trained to triage houses during large scale fires and direct fire fighting activities towards those that can be saved.

If you do your part, they will do theirs. Your fire fighters will put themselves in position, and give everything they can and attempt to save your property. By creating defensible space, you give your fire fighters a position to work from.

If you don't do your part, and no defensible space is created or given, your fire fighters don't have a position to work from. Without a position to work from, fire fighting is just simply too dangerous. Fire fighters should not be expected to risk their own life for property that cannot be defended or saved due to insufficient vegetation management.

As you look through the literature contained within the Chipper Days information, step outside and take a good look at your property. Decide for yourself if your property is at risk. If your answer is yes, then more than likely your neighbor's property is also at risk, but not by his or her choice. Fire knows no boundaries. It will move from vegetation to structure back to vegetation, or structure to structure. Gradually one by one the entire neighborhood could be consumed.

Big Bear Fire Department is not asking you, the property owner, to remove trees and brush to a point where the landscape represents that of a desert. We simply need to remove light flashy fuels, brush, and some small trees to a point where continuity of flammable vegetation is broken up horizontally and vertically. When you are done, your property will actually take on a park like setting of a mountain environment with lots of curb appeal.

Big Bear Fire Department staff will make an inspection of your property for a fee. With this inspection, Fire Department staff will make recommendations for steps that can be taken to substantially reduce the risk of loss due to a fire incident. It is up to the property owner to take responsibility for providing defensible space, and adjunct construction feature upgrades. By applying knowledge and initiative, you will be closer to ensuring structure survivability. When your work is complete, you will have done your part in making Big Bear a safer community in which to live. You also have taken the necessary steps to ensure Big Bear, the island paradise located a mile in the sky, will remain for generations to come.

Big Bear Fire Department offers many programs through cooperators that assist the property owner in accomplishing the creation of defensible space. I sincerely hope you take advantage of them. 

Make Your Home Fire Safe!


Jeff Willis