Town Hall Focus on Firewise Policy

            A Town Hall explaining Oakmont’s Firewise policy drew 73 residents to a May 4 Zoom meeting seeking clarification and answers to a wide range of questions about landscape options for their homes as well as safety precautions being taken near Highway 12, Wild Oak and Trione-Annadel State Park. 

            Iris Harrell, Firewise Committee chair, reviewed the specific requirements, noting the current year’s emphasis is on removing Junipers and any plants on OVA’s “Do Not Plant” list from the Ignition Zone that is within zero to five feet from the home.                             

            By Aug. 31 residents also are being asked to clear all dead wood and weeds, trim plants within six to 12 inches of siding and replace wood and rubber mulches with hardscape or leave as dirt. In Zone 2 (5 to 30 feet of homes) dead trees and shrubs and any branches that are dead need to be removed, wildland grasses mowed to four inches or less and all finely-shredded redwood and cedar bark removed. 

            The reason we have divided this into two phases is that we know it is a tremendous burden emotionally and financially,” Harrell said. “It also allows people to plan ahead.” 

            The Firewise Committee has 15 volunteer inspectors from Oakmont who can come out and advise residents. Requests should be sent to  Residents also should submit applications identifying plants they will be removing or adding to the Architectural Committee which will facilitate approvals. 

            In 2022 the focus of the policy changes to removing dead trees and limbs that overhang the roof as well as removing debris under trees and shrubs which act as ladder fuel. Trees need to be trimmed so they are six feet from the roof and 10 feet from chimneys. 

            “We want to save all the trees possible,” Harrell said, emphasizing most can be pruned and still be attractive. 

            Marianne Neufield, vice chair of the Firewise Committee, covered commonly asked questions such as whether plants can be added within five feet zone.  

            “Absolutely as long as they are not on the Do Not Plant list, are less than 18 inches in height and can be irrigated,” she said. She also recommended cutting down shrubs in front of windows to be safer.

            OVA Board Chair Tom Kendrick noted some have questioned the enforceability of the Firewise policy which OVA attorneys have affirmed.  

            “We absolutely prefer to work with property owners,” Neurfield said. “As long as we know you’re trying to comply and getting organized, you’re fine.”  

            Christel Antone, OVA’s Architectural and Compliance director, said she would be walking with a Cal Trans representative along Highway 12 to determine jurisdictions for addressing fire safety at the end of the month. 

Jeff Young. Board liaison to the Firewise Committee, stressed that home hardening is about how embers get into your home. “It’s kind like a snowstorm except it is as small as a grain of rice that catches fire,” he said, stressing the need to address a home’s most vulnerable components such as roofs, vents in the foundation, under eaves and attic openings.