Fire Safety Inspections Planned for Oakmont Homes

Last Updated: 08-22-19

Al Haggerty

Fire safety inspections of Oakmont homes could begin late next Spring under a resolution adopted by the Oakmont Village Association Board of Directors at its Aug. 20 meeting.

The board could potentially have the authority, provided due process is followed, to enter a resident’s property to remove hazardous material, rubbish and debris, including weeds, dead plants and/or trees causing a fire hazard. The property owner could be assessed the cost of remediation.

The board would have the authority, provided due process is followed, to enter a resident’s property to remove hazardous material, rubbish and debris, including weeds, dead plants and/or trees causing a fire hazard. The property owner could be assessed the cost of remediation.

“Our goal,” Board President Steve Spanier told the meeting, “is nothing less than to make Oakmont a model of fire preparedness and resistance. We literally have to do this; it’s simply too important not to. Between our efforts and those of local first responder organizations, governmental agencies and public safety institutions, we’re getting there, but your help as individual homeowners is critical.”

The resolution, passed unanimously, enables the board to “move forward with creating and establishing a property inspection policy and inspection forms” to begin in the May/June time frame after obtaining a legal opinion regarding authority to enforce. The 5-0 vote reflects the absence of directors Noel Lyons and Marianne Neufeld.

Spanier said the OVA maintenance staff has been preparing the community by trimming ladder fuels in common areas. He said OVA can “require homeowners to remedy serious situations. We’ve already forced action in several extreme cases and will continue to do so to protect community interests.”
Anticipating annual fire inspections, OVA will consider hiring inspectors and/or train existing staff and/or volunteers to inspect properties, which would be reflected in the 2019-20 budget.

Manager Kevin Hubred said OVA is focused on submitting an application for a 2019-20 Cal Fire grant of about $1 million. The money would be available to subsidize fire safety efforts of the OVA, individual HOAs and property owners.

EMERGENCY EXIT SOUGHT

            The OVA is also working on providing egress from Oakmont other than on Highway 12 by gaining access through Wild Oak and clearing Chanel Drive through state land. State Sen. Mike McGuire has created a subcommittee to assist OVA in this effort.

On the subject of enforcing fire safety requirements, Hubred said homeowners would be given 30 days to comply, but that this could be expanded to 60 or 90 days. While there is a question as to whether OVA has the authority to enforce requirements, he said OVA considered appealing to a judge in a case that took a year to resolve.

Hubred said the planned inspections would prioritize areas that back up on Trione-Annadel State Park. A Cal Fire map designating fire hazard severity zones describes the area between Oakmont Drive and the park as “very high” hazard. This also applies to a narrow strip between Stone Bridge Road and the park.

“Fortunately,” Spanier reported, “neither Oakmont nor local first responder and public safety organizations have been idle since the 2017 fires.” As an example, he said, a wildfire-spotting camera on a local peak is now relaying images 24 hours a day 7 days a week to a person who can dispatch emergency vehicles and personnel when a problem arises. He said PG&E expects to have 600 such cameras installed by 2022. He said PG&E is also performing accelerated inspections of its infrastructure, consisting of approximately 50,000 transmission structures, 685,000 distribution poles and 200 substations in high-risk areas and is installing 1,300 additional weather stations to provide improved awareness of fire danger conditions.