Moraga Orinda Fire District Updates

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(Courtesy of the Moraga Orinda Fire District)
This new chipper purchased by MOFD will help remove excess fuel from properties.

    With 2020’s lengthened fire season persisting, positive news has emerged from the Moraga Orinda Fire District (MOFD) and Orinda neighborhoods as the community moves to eliminate excess fuel from properties. These developments anticipate a much stricter fire code enforcement which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2021, with completion of mitigation on local properties required by May 31, 2021. There are now new requirements for building permits pulled with the city after Oct. 7.
    MOFD’s wildly popular free chipper service started again Oct. 5. With new equipment, it will run until June 1, when the fire prevention staff begins conducting inspections and enforcement of the fire code. Only three homeowners in a neighborhood are required to participate in the service, but the program’s availability provides a great opportunity to round up as many neighbors as possible because, as district personnel emphasize, “no one’s property is safe until everyone’s property is mitigated for wildfires.”
    MOFD’s staff advises neighborhood groups should collaborate and organize since “once the chipper visits a neighborhood it won’t return any time soon. So, it’s important to plan the event well.” In addition, the service will give priority to Firewise neighborhoods and areas with a large number of participants.
    To request the chipper, contact the MOFD Fuels Mitigation Staff at chipperprogram@mofd.org or call 925.258.4599. Be sure to confirm information at http://www.MOFD.org about what can be chipped, how to stack and other critical information, because the chipper won’t take material which doesn’t comply. In that case, disposal would be up to homeowners.
    The North Orinda Shaded Fuel Break project is finishing with the removal of troublesome Monterey pines and other trees of concern at the Sleepy Hollow Swim and Tennis Club, Wagner Ranch Elementary School and along Happy Valley Road. MOFD Chief Dave Winnacker said, “This will provide additional anchor points from which firefighters can make a stand in the event of a fire coming out of Briones.”
    The Sleepy Hollow Neighborhood Association (SHNA) received a $10,000 grant from the Diablo Firesafe Council to work with MOFD for tree trimming and vegetation removal along the major evacuation routes in their neighborhood. For properties which are not up to code (trees trimmed 3’ back and 15’ up), MOFD will mark the trees where they will be trimmed and a licensed arborist will do the work.
    SHNA representative Carol Brovelli said, “Now, more than ever, people believe that the threat of wildfire is real and that we all need to do our part to prepare our neighborhoods. People want to do their part and be good neighbors.”
    The SHNA has a block captain system which communicates to and educates the 450 property owners to make their homes better prepared for a wildfire. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many property owners immediately offered to remove the hazardous vegetation. In two different instances, the property owners removed trees overhanging the road within 24 hours of being told of the hazard.
    Brovelli added, “The impact of this grant extends well beyond the $10,000 award. Neighbors are walking their contiguous properties together and agreeing on what they can do to make their properties collectively better prepared for a wildfire. In another instance, we had volunteers who have agreed to help an elderly neighbor remove her juniper, clear vegetation and trim trees six feet up. Not only are we removing fire fuels, but it’s building community.”
    New requirements for building now include the following additions to the code:
    Combustible ground cover banned (to include mulch and bark) within 2’ of structures. A list of approved ground cover is available on the MOFD website.
    At least a 1’ air gap between the ground and lower portion of bushes, privets and other decorative plants within 2’ of structures.
    Increased vertical clearance for trees above roofs from 5’ to 6’.
    Increased vertical clearance for trees from 5’ to 6’ above the ground and surface fuels.
    Removal of Eucalyptus and Monterey pine within 6’ of structures.
    An exterior fire hazard inspection for real property transfers required. Sellers should self-report compliance, and realtors will check property status.
    Removal of juniper and bamboo within 10’ of a road by the end of 2023.
    Learn how to become a Firewise group at MOFD’s website, or contact the Orinda Firewise Council about its “Getting Started” sessions, which cover the steps and offer the experience of other folks who have gone through the organizational process. Contact Joyce Arnon, the Member Liaison at jarnon@aol.com.

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