Rita Wing has been a Thousand Oaks resident for over 40 years. She, like many others, lives on a fixed income and when she received a notice from the City about the condition of the Palm trees on her property. These trees posed a significant risk of igniting her home during a wildfire event. She became anxious about how she could afford to hire a contractor to complete the work. She reached out to Senior Concerns, who happens to be collaborating with the Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council (VRFSC) on a pilot project to do just that – – assist Seniors to complete the necessary brush clearing and ‘home hardening’ work that will reduce her property’s susceptibility to wildfire.
The Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council was established in 2009 by a group of concerned land and property owners. It has since grown into a successful nonprofit organization with eight staff and nine volunteer board members, all with the mission to inform and empower our communities through action, education and collaboration. This entails a variety of actions to ‘harden’ a home, or increase the property’s protection against wildfire, especially in Zone Zero of the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ), the first five feet adjacent to the structure. In many cases, when staff is out in the community performing Home Hardening Assessments, the homeowner is often retired, elderly, or lives on a low or fixed income. The upside is that the Home Hardening Assessments are free of cost for anyone living in Ventura County. Much more work is needed to make wildfire preparedness more accessible to everyone.
Rita, a well-traveled widow of Italian descent, walks Max Young, the Council’s Lead Wildfire Safety Liaison, around the property, regaling him with her tales of international travel, her family’s history, her famous ravioli, and the challenges of relying solely on Social Security. Many older residents have the security of owning a home here in Ventura County, but with the rising costs of nearly everything, Home Hardening rarely lands at the top of their tight budgets.
When Max heard of her situation from Senior Concerns, a nonprofit organization focused on offering support services to seniors who live alone in their homes rather than in group housing, he immediately started reaching out to partners to see if there could be a solution to Rita’s worries. And indeed, in the spirit of community, the Conejo Valley Lions Club and the tree trimming company, Property Improvements Unlimited, worked up a solution that allowed Rita to celebrate her 94th birthday a few steps closer to having a wildfire prepared home and the peace of mind knowing that her home, and as a result, her neighborhood would be safer from wildfire. Without the generosity of this private business and civic organization, this effort would have not been possible.
To learn more about Fire Safe Councils, please visit, cafiresafecouncil.org. The Ventura Regional Firesafe Council is one of several councils in Ventura County working with the Ventura County Fire Department, the Ventura County Resource Conservation District , the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA) and a host of other key stakeholders to help keep Ventura Strong. This December marks five years since the Thomas Fire stormed through the county, setting records that were quickly overshadowed by other large mega fires now common to every western state. As drought conditions persist, it is imperative that every
resident become wildfire aware. You can sign up for a FREE Home Hardening Assessment, by visiting, venturafiresafe.org/home-hardening and you can inquire about our programs intended to help seniors off-set the cost to harden your home by emailing, email@example.com. Currently and in partnership with COSCA and VRFSC, some limited funding exists to test the viability of these efforts.
Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council is working to acquire funding to be able to expand their work helping residents complete and afford home hardening mitigations through grants and sponsorships. Join us in protecting neighborhoods from wildfire, one house at a time. If you would like to help us expand these efforts and support this vital work, please visit venturafiresafe.org/donate.