It is important to note that vegetation mitigation is only one part of good defensible space. Proper building construction, maintenance and general outside housekeeping are key to structure survivability!
MONTECITO FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT FIRE PROTECTION PLAN
Montecito Fire Protection District Fire Protection Plan is a compilation of regulations, ordinances, and policies adopted by the Fire District Board of Directors to establish regulations governing conditions dangerous to life and property from fire. Further, the Plan is intended to supplement the District's adoption of the current version of the California Fire Code, including amendments to the California Fire Code, Building Code and Residential Code (collectively "Code").
The Building Code is enforced by Santa Barbara County Planning and Development, Building and Safety, but the District's Prevention Bureau works closely with residents and building officials regarding these codes, especially in the Designated High Fire Hazard Areas.
Elements of the current plan include:
1. Roofing Requirements
2. Vegetation Management/Hazard Abatement
3. Access Requirements
4. Water Supply for Firefighting Requirements
5. Residential Automatic Fire Sprinkler Requirements
ANNUAL HAZARD ABATEMENT
In May of each year all residents receive a general notice explaining hazard abatement regulations and guidelines for fire safety and planning for wildland fires.
Enforcement: Engine Captains are assigned specific geographical areas of responsibility for hazard abatement enforcement and general complaints.
In May/June of each year, Captains canvass their areas noting and verifying by visual observation which addresses have violation hazards. The vast majority of the community is gated, thus observations during inspections are limited to what is visible from the main roads.
If the Captain finds violations, the property owner is sent a hazard abatement notice in early June, depending on weather. Approximately 15 days after the first notice, the Captina re-inspects the property for compliance. If there are still violations, the property owner is sent a second hazard abatement notice.
If the violation has not been addressed after 15 days of receiving the second notice, a more aggressive approach is taken to see that the hazard is abated.
Such action may include: Personal contact, review by the Fire Marshal or a citation notice.
Violations are handled administratively as much as possible; however, some violations are taken to the District Attorney for legal remedy.
Hazard abatement complaints: Complaints are typically phoned in by the public, and are recorded on a "Complaint Form" with the address or general location of the hazard. Residents often prefer not to make an official documented complaint and we honor that request. Complaints, whether official, or informal, are given to the on-shift Captain or referred to a Wildland Fire Specialist if appropriate.
District policy requires a response within the first 24 hours. If a violation is found, notification of the violation is provided to the property owner, and handled in the same manner as the District's Annual Hazard Abatement program.
FIRE HAZARD REDUCTION PROJECTS
Some of the District's fire hazard reduction projects are funded by grants, donations and cost share agreements with property owners. The Wildland Fire Specialists are responsible for planning, preparing documents, coordinating and monitoring all projects.
Neighborhood cleanup projects are the most successful programs in reducing flammable vegetation adjacent to structures. In 2013, for example, the District contacted over 500 property owners to encourage participation. We were able to conduct 8 Neighborhood Cleanup Projects and removed tons of chipped material. We have averaged 8 to 10 neighborhoods each year for this program.
Neighborhood Cleanup Projects have three (3) distinct elements:
1. Neighborhood education
Site visits are a key part of educating property owners-these are provided free of charge. The District's Wildland Fire Specialists offer and encourage a detailed walk around their property and identify items that the resident can do to make their home safer, such as removal of flammable vegetation, moving wood storage away from structures, adding "bird stops" to roof tiles and improving poor access. The District's Wildland Fire Specialists also assist in uniting neighbors to support and work together.
2. Free chipping
Free chipping is provided in the Neighborhoods that host our Cleanup Projects, and this encourages property owners to actually remove hazardous vegetation.
In 2013 we removed over 450 tons of flammable vegetation from Montecito. The free chipping gets residents motivated.
3. Tag and Trim
Engine companies flag tree and shrub encroachments that impede into emergency access and egress. The property owners are notified of the problem area(s), and are given the choice of removing the encroachment themselves or having the project contractor do it as a part of the Neighborhood Cleanup Project.
All Neighborhood Cleanup Projects are conducted in collaboration with the local waste management services and dumpsters are provided for non-chippable vegetation or milled wood.
Fuel treatment networks are more complex projects requiring considerable planning. Property
owner participation agreements are used to quantify the projects and are reviewed for compliance with the 2002 Environmental Impact Report for the Montecito Community Fire Protection Plan. Fuel treatment is conducted on, and adjacent to, private properties with a shaded fuel break theme. The Fuel Treatment Network projects focus on connecting cleared areas and extending defensible space. Defensible space clearance is the responsibility of the property owner.
Some of our recent project includes the following:
• Eucalyptus grove fire reduction, Bella Vista & Fearing Trail
• Eucalyptus grove fire reduction, Crestview at Santa Barbara City reservoir
• Fuel treatment zone - Freehaven/Cima Del Mundo
• Fuel treatment zone at 2200 block Bella Vista
• Fuel treatment zone in the Hot Springs/Oak Creek Canyon/San Ysidro Road areas
Roadside fire hazard reduction and encroachment clearance is provided by weed whacking and removal of flammable vegetation (10' feet +) adjacent to key roads. (Examples: Gibraltar - East and West Mountain - Coyote - Park Lane - Bella Vista.)
Contractors begin this work late in April or May depending on weather, and additional work is also done in July. Removal of roadside encroachments (including tree encroachments) is more difficult and limited to priorities set by the District's Wildland Fire Specialists with input from field personnel. Roadside encroachment removal is focused on evacuation routes to make access and egress safer for our equipment and the public.
Defensible Space Surveys are offered free of charge to all property owners in the District. An extensive "site survey" is provided, giving property owners input on making their home safer from wildland fires. It is estimated that the District's Wildland Fire Specialists conduct over 500 Defensible Space Surveys per year.
Edison access roads run through northern portions of the District in areas designated as very high fire danger. The District partners with Edison to reduce fire hazards and encroachments along these roads.
Trails and recreation areas also run through northern portions of the District in areas designated as very high fire danger. The District works with the Forest Service on prevention efforts on adjoining lands.
News articles with a fire prevention theme are periodically submitted to the Montecito Journal or used as information documents to distribute to property owners.
Fire prevention advertisements are periodically placed in local news papers during high fire season. Wildland Fire Specialists work with the department public information specialist to keep online information current.
Fire danger status and warning signs are maintained in various locations throughout the District and on the District's website.
Neighborhood and community meetings: The District's Wildland Fire Specialists and Public Education Officers can meet with property owner groups and homeowner associations when requested to discuss defensible space, notification systems and disaster preparedness. These educational meetings are offered to groups as (free of charge) whenever requested.
Home protection systems: The District's Prevention Bureau can assist residents and property owners with information relating to home fire protection systems such as: Residential Fire Sprinklers, Foam/Thermo Gel/Barricade, Phoscheck etc. We review and test installations of new systems, and will assist in testing older installations upon request.
Remote area fire risks on trails and recreation areas are monitored by Prevention Bureau staff and auxiliary employees. The Prevention Bureau staff and auxiliary employees make direct contact with recreational users of these areas during summer months and provide fire prevention information relative to their activities.
The Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council: The Wildland Fire Specialists provide information on District projects and activities to the Fire Safe Council and participate as Directors on their Board, attend monthly meetings and other Council activities.