Jan Brocker, a Chaparral Pines resident and member of its Firewise Committee, learned about the rules designed to reduce fire risk only after she bought a home there in 2011.

“We ended up selling the house we had built here in 2000 and purchasing another home in Chaparral Pines in 2011,” she said. “That’s when we received a letter that Firewising was required for any home purchased after 2008.”

It surprised them.

“As part-timers, we weren’t as aware as we could have been about the Firewising initiative,” she said.

Brocker said she and her husband then embraced the requirements and actually found it improved the enjoyment of their home.

“The trees planted too close to the house had been blocking the view,” she said. “Once removed, the house felt less closed in and suddenly we had an amazingly expansive view. Somewhat ironic, but too much vegetation had actually taken away the natural beauty.”

Tess Tanner, the administrative assistant for the Chaparral Pines Community Association, sent the list of standards intended “to keep the community as safe as possible from the threat of wildfire without increasing erosion.”

The standards focus on creating defensible space by removing dead or dying vegetation, ladder fuels, trim trees and control the build up of fallen leaves.

“To meet this standard, vegetation on properties should be in definable groups or clumps with clear paths or openings between and among existing vegetation,” say the standards. “A property with thick growth of vegetation that is difficult to walk through does not meet this standard.”

The standards require tree thinning, which posed a challenge for Brocker.

“It’s always been difficult for me to cut down trees or take out vegetation — we chose to live in the mountains because of the natural beauty that surrounds us,” she said.

Only one or two trees should be in an area, say the standards. Homeowners had to remove any vegetation at the base of the tree that could carry a ground fire into the lower branches and trim any tree limbs closer than six feet to the ground.

Brocker said she has a tree that grows near her home, but she can keep it if she keeps it irrigated and trimmed away from overhanging the house.

“Any vegetation close to the house should be properly irrigated,” she said, “It doesn’t have to be removed as long as it isn’t dead or brittle. Our house was recently re-evaluated, and even though the tree has grown, we were told it’s fine.”

Residents of Chaparral Pines were recently recognized for a decade of effort to keep their community Firewise. Contributed photo
A proud sponsor of Catastrophe: A forest in flames

The standards also require those with homes built after 2008 to remove all flammable materials from decks, porches, patios, roofs and gutters. That means keeping pine needles, doormats, dry floral arrangements, cushions, wood piles, and shrubs away from the house.

To top off the Firewise requirements, the Chaparral Pines Homeowners Association asks that homeowners keep up the Firewising around the area.

Brocker added, “In the beginning, I believe it was more difficult to get members to Firewise on their own. Human nature is to resist change and defy people who tell them what to do. However, as time went on and people were able to compare a well-done Firewised property with one that hadn’t been touched, the benefits and aesthetic value became more apparent. While there will always be different points of view within a gated, covenant-controlled community like Chaparral Pines, Firewising does not seem to be a ‘hot button’ — no pun intended!”

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Spark by Pia Wyer

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