Firewise: New Focus

            The OVA Board has approved a new charter changing the name and focus of the Firewise Safety Committee from compliance to “wanting to be of service and helping our neighbors” meet the Firewise Policy guidelines.
            “I am seeing that we are entering a new phase that requires more of us not to be scaring people, but reaching out — move it to a place where neighbors are helping neighbors,” said Jeff Young, the director who authored the new charter to rename the group to Firewise Resource Committee.
            The board voted 5-2 at its August meeting, with directors Heidi Klyn and Jess Marzak objecting, but for different reasons. Marzak said he liked all of the new charter except a requirement that assessment reports not be shared with the Architectural Committee without permission of the homeowner. Klyn opposed the name change and a charter headline  “How Can We Help?”
            The OVA adopted a firewise landscape policy last year requiring combustible materials and mulches within five feet of a home to be removed by Aug.31. Since then, the Firewise Committee has conducted almost 500 home assessments by trained Oakmont volunteers. The board considered but decided against extending that deadline for six months in a four to three vote.
            “I also appreciate all the work of the committee,” said Young. He said it is time to “change the message from compliance to wanting to be of service and help to our neighbors.”
            In addition to the current work, the charter sets up an online resource center to collect, organize and present fire safety information to residents and sub-HOAs on how to make their homes more resilient to the threats of wildfire by understanding risk reduction strategies. 
            Tom Kendrick, OVA president, praised the committee’s “enormous amounts of work” in getting residents to remove vegetation and take steps to harden homes.
            “We are shifting things a bit. We would like to see the committee viewed a resource, help people to organize information in a way for people to find and see it,” he said. “We are hugely appreciative. It is to amplify what the committee has done. They are here to help. And that’s a key message that belongs front and center.”