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Newly-certified Rossmoor Firewise committee laying groundwork for education

By Sam Richards

Staff writer


Wednesday, January 10 (9:00 a.m.) Members of Rossmoor’s fledgling Firewise USA Committee received a timely gift on Christmas Eve – official recognition of their group by the National Fire Protection Association. When Jeroen Wright made the announcement to the 12 other members of the group at their Dec. 27 meeting, applause broke out around the Gateway boardroom.

“It was a nice little Christmas present,” said Wright, Rossmoor’s director of Mutual operations and the coordinator of this newest of Firewise USA chapters. He then brought out a copy of the official certificate of recognition – “We’ll get it hung up somewhere,” he said.

And then, committee member Fran Gibson said, “So now the real work begins.”

Though the group is still working to craft its formal mission statement, members said on Dec. 27 that it likely will feature verbiage about educating and guiding Rossmoor residents about steps to take to reduce the risk of wildfire in their community.

The Firewise effort has two primary purposes – one, to make Rossmoor a safer place for those who live and work here, and two, to help make Rossmoor and each of its Mutuals more insurable in an era when the cost of property insurance premiums is going through the roof.

“Everything we can do to keep insurance costs down, not to mention protecting life and limb, we need to do it,” said Kris Carey, a member of the Mutual 55 board of directors.

At the request of the NFPA, the Rossmoor group is forming eight separate zones – their boundaries the same as those for Rossmoor’s existing evacuation zone model – to carry out Firewise USA programs. One or two captains, volunteers from among the 12 resident members of the Rossmoor Firewise Committee, will lead these efforts in each of the zones.

The specifics of such education outreach have yet to be worked out – that will come at an upcoming meeting. These meetings are scheduled for the fourth Wednesday of each month, from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Gateway boardroom.

Wright, noting that the Firewise committee is still in its infancy, said he believes the best approach is to “focus on some basics before we go too far down any one avenue.”

Carey said that, as a Mutual 55 board member, he considers Firewise-related work crucial, especially in light of climate change. “It’s an essential thing we’re doing, and as the years go by, it will be even more essential,” he said.

Loran Shlevin, a member of the Second Mutual board, said she feels a similar obligation as a leader. She also said she is driven, in part, by a fear of fire, and how places like Paradise, California and Lahaina, Hawaii have been ravaged. Getting serious about fire prevention, she said, is important to her, she said.

Two years ago, Shlevin said, she was checking up regularly on a Rossmoor resident who uses a wheelchair, when there was a fire nearby. She said she panicked thinking about how she would be able to help that person had the fire spread to where she was.

“I want to help make the community safe so that will never become an issue,” she said.