MONTECITO, Calif. - Carving out defensible space is no longer enough protection for homes in high fire danger zones. Longtime homeowners and local firefighters know it. So the Montecito Fire Department launched a first-of-its-kind fire protection pilot program.
"This was one of the recommendations in our CWPP which is the Community Wildfire Protection Plan. So, it's been something that we've been wanting to do for a long time," said Maeve Jaurez, Montecito Fire Wildland Fire Specialist.
It is a Vent Retrofit Program that targets some of the smallest exterior areas of a house.
"Often times, people think that it's this big flaming front that comes and burns down houses and really, it's not that. What it is are the little things," said Jaurez. "Most commonly, it's the vents."
A number of homeowners experienced the heartbreaking scenario during our larger, devastating wildfires including the Thomas, Tea and Jesusita fires. Homes burned from the inside out when embers made their way through older vents.
The Montecito Fire Department saw the need for upgrades, brought in experts, and allocated funds for a Home Hardening Assistance Program using new screens with tighter mesh.
Nine homes were chosen this year. Professional installers upgraded the older vents to ember-resistant vents with 1/16" wire mesh spacing rather than the older (and no longer to-code) 1/4".
"It's been super successful. I would anticipate seeing this project much bigger next year in the community of Montecito," said Juarez.