A Homeowner’s Guide to Fire and Watershed Management at the Chaparral/Urban Interface

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Several guides and booklets have been written to help the homeowner deal with particular aspects of living in the re-prone wildlands of the Paci c Southwest. Until the 1982 publication A Homeowner’s Guide to Fire and Watershed Management at the Chaparral/Urban Interface, none had given homeowners comprehensive advice on managing their properties effectively so as to reduce the chances of wild re and mud ow disasters and the hardships, both personal and financial, they bring. The 1982 publication was subsequently identified by the Wild re Safety Panel investigating the disastrous November 2, 1993 Malibu/Topanga Fire as the basis for developing de nite guidelines for vegetation management plans in Los Angeles County. This panel and other post- re disaster panels such as the San Diego Fire Recovery Network have also time and again acknowledged that continuous education programs are necessary to mitigate hazardous situations. 

This revised and updated book attempts to further such an ongoing education process by providing advice in a practical, nonscientific, yet professional manner, through basic principles and guidelines. It is also based on and contains excerpts from the 1983 PSW General Technical Report Living More Safely in the Chaparral-Urban Interface, a guide to hillside property management for fire and watershed protection. Both publications were written by the same author under cooperative contracts between the Paci c Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station (Forest Service, U. S.

Department of Agriculture) and the County of Los Angeles, with funding provided by the Forest Service. They also incorporated state-of-the-art knowledge in various wildland disciplines, and the experience gained by the author in dealing with re and goods in his work and as a homeowner at the chaparral boundary.

This book first provides a brief description of the chaparral plant community, followed by sections describing some basic considerations of watershed and re management. Later sections deal with improving safety around the home through home design, landscaping, and maintenance; evacuation and road closure, protecting oneself and one’s property during a wilfire; providing emergency treatment of hillsides after a re; and, finally, applying the lessons learned.

For more comprehensive and area specific fuel modification and public safety code requirements applicable to your community, please also consult planning departments, and fire protection and flood control agencies having jurisdiction there.