October 8, 2008

Board Wants Fire-Resistant Roofs for Mountain Residents

By Joe Nelson

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday adopted an ordinance requiring all mountain residents to replace their wood shake shingle roofs with fire-resistant roofs within five years from the time the ordinance takes effect on Jan. 1.

The board also approved the revision of an ordinance that requires mountain residents to have a 100-foot firebreak around their homes.

It now mandates that green vegetation, such as small bushes and small trees, also be cleared from properties along with dry grasses and dead brush. The revision takes effect in 30 days.

The move is to help protect mountain residents from devastating wildfires that have destroyed thousands of homes in the San Bernardino Mountains in the last five years.

"It puts the responsibility on the property owner and lessens the responsibility for taxpayers," Peter Brierty, assistant county fire chief and county fire marshal, said at a news conference Tuesday hosted by 3rd District Supervisor Dennis Hansberger.

Randy Rogers, head of code enforcement, said his department will work with the various fire chiefs and fire safe councils to target areas where enforcement is most needed and fan out from there.

Residents who can't afford the cost of clearing their property can seek financial assistance through the National Forest Association's Forest Care program. They can call (888) 883-THIN or go to the program's Web site at www.sbnfa.org for more information, said Shawna Meyer, executive director of Forest Care.

About 4,000 residents will need to replace their roofs, and owners of 89,000 mountain parcels of land will have to bring their properties up to code, Hansberger said.

Last November, the Grass Valley Fire, which burned more than 1,200 acres and destroyed nearly 200 homes, roared through Deer Lodge Park northwest of Lake Arrowhead. Had it not been for fire crews cutting a swath of defensible space in the area weeks before, hundreds of other homes could have been destroyed, Hansberger said.

Hansberger feels confident that most will be able to handle the cost of replacing their combustible roofs.

"It will create some hardships. That's why we're giving them five years," he said.

(c) 2008 The Sun, San Bernardino, Calif.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.