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Be safe, save money with Station Fire lessons

August 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
On the eve of the first anniversary of the largest wildfire in L.A. County history, homeowners, firefighters and insurance experts are showing what a difference precautions and preparation can make in preventing a disaster.Los Angeles County's largest wildfire was called the Station Fire. It lasted nearly two months, cutting a 251-square mile swath of destruction and killing two firefighters. It started one year ago Thursday.

But Wednesday, in the Meadows area of Altadena, homeowners along with officials from L.A. County Fire, the Department of Insurance and the Insurance Information Network joined forces to show how brush clearance and a few basic fire protection measures saved homes during the Station Fire.

"If you were here five years ago you would have seen all of this overgrown," said homeowner Greg Stanton. "We were just ripe for a fire to come through with the fuel. It had been a hundred years since there had been a fire up here."

Stanton heads up the Meadows Fire Safe Council. It is one of several area committees formed by the homeowners and funded through the federal government to make sure their neighborhood is ready for a wildfire.

"You just need some dedicated people. There's about 10 of us on the Fire Safe Council and everybody takes a different task," said Stanton.

Brush clearance is one task of the council. Another is installing some simple improvements on the homes.

Rain gutters can be extra dangerous in a fire, especially if they are filled up with debris. A new product called Gutter Fill helps keep the debris out and allows the water to flow through.

With these fire-safe measures homeowners also get better insurance coverage.

"This was what was called a 'Fair Plan' area. In other words, the insurance carrier of last resort for people who live in brush fire zones," said Candysse Miller of the Insurance Information Network. "But as the Fire Safe communities started going, insurance companies are coming back and writing in this area."

And more carriers mean more competition and lower premiums. But homeowners should still shop around.

"They do use different techniques and their risk profiles are different. Their computer models are different. The benefit structures are different. The pricing is vastly different," said Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. "I recommend at least every year or two, not only do you update your insurance but you look around to see if there are better deals elsewhere."


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