Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Chelan County homeowners could receive technical and financial assistance to protect their home in a wildfire

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LEAVENWORTH – In the last decade, Cascadia Conservation District (Cascadia CD), a non-regulatory entity that provides landowners with assistance on natural resource projects, has ramped up its programs to help increase wildfire resiliency in Chelan County. 

Most recently, Cascadia CD is launching the Home Hardening Rebate Program, which provides educational and financial assistance to landowners in Chelan County preparing their homes or structures for wildfires. 

“It’s trying to incentivize people to do some of these home hardening practices…These are all things that have a lot of research behind them as being effective measures you can take for your home,” said Cascadia CD Forest and Community Resilience Specialist Isobel Woolner.

According to Wildfire Risk to Communities, the majority of homes lost to wildfire are first ignited by embers and small flames. Reducing the susceptibility of the home and its immediate surroundings greatly increases the chances of a home surviving a wildfire. The educational website identifies the home and its surrounding five feet as the most vulnerable to embers.

Through the Cascadia CD program, homeowners could be eligible for up to a $500 rebate for participating in a home hardening practice such as caulking exterior gaps in structures, putting metal flashing on siding or deck footing, laying a gravel perimeter around structures, installing metal mesh screening under decks, replacing exterior vents or window screens, covering gutter, or replacing or retrofitting fences. The program is funded by the Washington State Conservation Commission.

Anyone who owns or rents land or property in Chelan County will be eligible to sign up, but renters will have to have a landowner agreement with the owners of the property. Provided that the program is in its pilot year, Cascadia CD will approve sign-ups on a first-come, first-served basis. 

While signing up, those who have already had a wildfire risk home assessment on their home in the past may indicate which practice they would like to implement. For those who are just starting out, Cascadia CD will provide, or coordinate with local fire district staff, a free risk assessment and recommendations on which practice will be most beneficial. 

After getting selected to implement a practice, homeowners can either complete the work themselves, hire a contractor, or a combination of both. In order to receive the rebate, the work will have to be done in a manner that meets the expectations of Cascadia CD’s “Practice Specifications.”  Participants will need to provide before and after photos, as well as receipts, after project completion. After photo submission or inspection, Cascadia CD sends a check within 30 days.

Although Cascadia CD offers other wildfire risk reduction programs such as the Fuel Break and Forest Resilience Partnership, the Home Hardening Rebate Program is its first program to specifically target the structure itself. 

“Historically, we’d go out and do these site visits and focus on the house, talk about the importance of the house, and then just say, “We can only cover forestry practices, fuels reduction practices, like out past 30 feet of the house,” or something like that. So, actually being able to tell people some of the things that they could fix, and then also being able to have a program to provide that assistance is pretty awesome,” said Cascadia CD Forest and Community Resilience Specialist Joe Hill.

More information about Cascadia CD’s programs can be found at CascadiaCD.org. Questions about the Home Hardening Rebate Program can be directed to isobelw@cascadiacd.org or joeh@cascadiacd.org.

“I would encourage people, especially if they're interested, but they don't know which practice or what they even would do, I definitely encourage them to reach out. Even if they're not interested in getting an incentive payment or even doing any home hardening practices, reach out and get a risk assessment,” said Woolner.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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