There are days that remain etched in your memory. One of those days was last August, when our county woke up during the week, at night, to witness a rolling cloud, hurricane-force winds and lightning pulling in all directions. The destruction left in its wake will forever be etched in our collective consciousness.
The storm left behind a multitude of fires, which converged into a massive inferno spanning a staggering 81 square miles, now known as the CZU Complex Fire. Well-coordinated evacuations led by Cal Fire and our local first responders have saved countless lives, but the victims who lost their homes and businesses are still rebuilding and will be for some time to come.
As we head into a dry summer, we should remember the lessons learned over the past year and diligently prepare for the fire season ahead.
Home curing is a term you will hear about soon and that we are discussing with our community. It includes steps you can take to make your home resistant to forest fires and better prepared to protect your family. We invited our Fire Chief, Ron Whittle, to a recent city council meeting, and he explained that eliminating areas of combustion around your home is one of the best defenses against a fire, including cleaning up. gutters and debris removal from your roof. Additionally, creating a perimeter of at least 6 feet around your home and removing vegetation near your structure will further protect your home.
Whittle also suggested replacing the wood chips with hardscape or rock, as firefighters saw landscaping bark serving as a fuel source in the CZU fire. He noted that during a wildfire, the house that is hardened will be the one that firefighters focus on saving first, as the chances of saving it are so much greater. Houses that had developed a defensible space survived, while the immediate neighbors who had not developed a defensible space were not so fortunate.
Community members are also encouraged to sign up for Nixle Alerts on Nixle.com or download the CodeRED app for your phone. These systems will keep you informed in the event of an emergency. Additionally, Whittle recommends knowing the area of your home on Zonehaven.com, which will help you with evacuation alerts. Zonehaven offers an interactive map, where you can locate your home and identify its area.
It is also important to review your fire insurance. Homeowners are urged to check their policy limits and make sure there is sufficient coverage to cover replacement in the event of a loss. Especially given the dramatic increase in materials and labor, this should be on your to-do list. In addition, take photos of your personal belongings in order to have a file in the event of a disaster. If you are one of the many homeowners whose policy has been canceled, be sure to purchase new insurance. The California Fair Plan is available in the event that you are not covered by a traditional policy.
As a city, Scotts Valley takes the upcoming fire season very seriously due to drought and recent fires. The city is actively working on its open spaces and ensuring the elimination of dry vegetation. For example, active vegetation removal projects are underway around the open spaces of Skypark and Granite Creek. City leaders are actively engaging the public, and the fire department is talking to community groups and HOAs about how to prepare.
It was heartwarming to see the number of community members, churches and groups who mobilized and volunteered during the fires of the past year. However, we must not forget that nearly 1,000 homes have been lost in our county, and we still have so many friends and neighbors who need help. These residents are still rebuilding their homes and their lives. There is a long term recovery group that is helping, but these families still need our love and support. If you would like to provide help, you can email: [email protected] and let them know you want to help.
As a community, we are better prepared to deal with a disaster if it happens again. However, it does not replace the steps you can take to prepare yourself and your family now. For more information on the steps you can take to prepare, visit readyforwildfire.org.
The Mayor’s Message is a Sunday column written by Scotts Valley Mayor Derek Timm.