MOFD Helps Homeowners Create Defensible Space for Themselves

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(Dennis Reins, Photographer)
Volunteer listens to Chief Winnacker at the onsite training for the Fire Adapted Community Ambassador program.

    Despite all the information popping up everywhere about how to make your home and property safe from a wildfire, it can be hard to know where to begin.
    The Moraga Orinda Fire District (MOFD) asked the Orinda Firewise Council to help form a pilot program of volunteers who will come to your home to advise ways to make your home safer – for free!
    The Fire Adapted Community Ambassador (FACA) program recently started with volunteers drawn from the Firewise communities. About 22 people trained to understand both fire code and fire behavior. Volunteer Marc Evans, of the Monte Vista Firewise group, thought the training was great and has made visits to roughly 14 homes.
    After a Zoom session, trainees met a couple of times in both Orinda and Moraga.
    Fire Marshall Jeff Isaacs believes one of the most important experiences was the opportunity for trainees to observe a prescribed burn. “It was like scales fell from their eyes. They could experience how flame length, speed and intensity would behave under different conditions. Volunteers stood across the street from the burn and they could feel the radiant heat from across the road.”
    Isaacs said the program is not designed for citizen volunteers to perform actual inspections or to write citations. “They are ambassadors and educators, not enforcers,” he said. The job of enforcement belongs to MOFD.
    Still a pilot program not yet fully up and running, it is not advertised and people cannot make requests through MOFD. Ambassadors are on their own to reach out to their neighbors. One ambassador from Sanders Ranch has done over 70 assessments. MOFD will assess the program at the end of the summer, with plans to expand it with new trainings and a request page on the district website. In the meantime, the Orinda Firewise Council can also help match a homeowner with an ambassador if people inquire through its website: www.orindafirewisecouncil.org/contact-us.
    A home with a defensible space, “hardened” against fire, has a better chance of surviving a wildfire. While the home visit program is just a beginning, taking that first step will go a long way to making homes safer. Downloadable brochures are available at www.orindafirewisecouncil.org, or on the MOFD website at www.mofd.org.

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