Residents filled the Berger Center at the Fire Safe Fair The event was held before OVA recommended wearingn masks in Oakmont facilities. (Photo by Juilie Kiil)

Fire Wise Fair: Rock Stars at Oakmont

Neill Ray

                  Oakmont’s Fire Wise Fair promoted rocks over fauna and flora as the new star in landscaping that can reduce the risk of loss from wildfire. Many residents have already started rock landscaping projects.  

                  For example, the Lash and Andersen families in the Twin Lakes sub-HOA have joined forces to install rocks across both of their yards. These neighbors approach the fire problem as a team. The Lashes investigated Vulcan Vents during the fair while the Andersens explored Fortify, a spray-on gel fire retardant.  

                  Hundreds of Oakmonters took advantage of the many vendors who provided handouts, and some vendors donated their products or services as prizes for lucky drawing winners. Patricia Finnegan in Singing Woods won a bundled prize including a whole house installation of Vulcan Vents, Fire Gard retardant, and Ember Defense labor services.  Finnegan had previously installed Vulcan Vents for her foundation vents and graciously donated her prize to a neighbor. Impressed with Finnegan’s generosity, the vendors agreed to replace Patricia’s eave vents and her neighbor’s foundation vents, which can block flying embers .

                  Free food and connecting with neighbors after COVID-19 isolation undoubtedly increased attendance at Oakmont’s Fire Wise Fair. The vendor served 430 meals. Those who attended shared some common threads, including the benefit of learning how to form neighborhood teams to protect homes and sharing lessons learned from the Glass fire evacuation. Many residents lined up to talk with fire and public safety personnel who attended the Fair.

                  That was the case for Linne McAleer, a seven-plus-year Oakmont resident, who serves as a zone communicator.  She recalls knocking on doors at 11 p.m. to alert her neighbors to the evacuation order. Returning home, McAleer could not find her cat, Merry. This last-minute hiccup could have ended in tragedy, but she found Merry’s box of treats, shook the box, and called Merry’s name. Merry appeared, and the duo drove out of Oakmont.  It took 45 minutes to reach the Highway 12 from McAleer’s house.  “We’ve got to find a better exit strategy,” said McAleer.

                  High winds and embers present a big problem, but Oakmont’s Fire Wise Fair presented solutions to fight them. Of course, having a personal evacuation plan helps too. And McAleer has this advice: “When I get the evacuation order, I’m gone.”