Safe Community Project


Wildfire Safety In Lower Income Communities

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There are several neighborhoods in the greater Los Angeles area that are classified as “high-value” areas, where homes are worth millions of dollars. These areas have narrow, winding roads that can make it difficult for firefighters to access them in case of a wildfire. Additionally, the excessive growth of vegetation in these areas can pose a threat to expensive homes and properties.

In the same high fire severity zone, there is another type of community located within a few miles – mobile homes. These homes are usually old, made of wood and lack protection. They belong to low-income homeowners who lack resources to make their homes fire-resistant. These homeowners are often struggling to find insurance and protect their property, which makes it difficult for them to stay safe.

MySafe:LA is diligently working to make these lower-income homeowners protected as well. We’re working to help them organize, share resources, and to apply for financial support that could make the difference in saving their home when the next wind-driven wildfire occurs. 

Men and women watching a safety presentation hosted by MySafe:LA.

One of our most important efforts is to educate people that making their homes fire-resistant doesn’t have to be costly. Simple tasks like removing brush, closing all openings to the attic or basement, and trimming back vegetation can significantly reduce the risk of ignition.

One of the communities we’re working with is the Oakridge Mobile Home Estates. There are 600 homes in this mobile home complex, and these people know wildfire. 

On November 15, 2008, a wildfire erupted in the hills above the Oakridge Mobile Home Park in the early morning hours. The fire quickly spread through the park due to high winds and intense heat. Unfortunately, the fire destroyed 480 of the park’s 600 mobile homes. According to LAFD Captain Steve Ruda, a close ally of our L.A. Division MySafe:LA, the fire was like “an absolute firestorm” with 50-foot high flames. The heat of the fire was so intense that even the hoses were melting into the concrete. 

Site of a Californian wildfire which burned and destroyed several mobile homes.

Despite the difficulties, firefighters were able to rescue several individuals from their mobile homes. Furthermore, four civilians bravely rescued a 300-pound disabled woman who was trapped in her mobile home as the fire began breaking the glass. Although there were initial concerns that some elderly residents might have perished in the fire, cadaver-sniffing dogs searched the ruins and found no evidence of any fatalities.

Oakridge has rebuilt, but its been more than a decade and the vegetation around the mobile home park has regrown as well. In fact, due to the wet rainy seasons, the fuel load is higher than it’s been in a decade. MySafe:LA is working to create an NFPA Firewise USA site at Oakridge, and to teach homeowners about the simple things they can to to make their homes more resistent to wildfire. Many of the residents are on fixed incomes and cannot afford expensive retrofitting, so the effort being undertaken is essential for their safety.

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