So Chris I know you have a background in the fire fighting industry, tell us how this idea came about?
I began my fire career in 2009 at the Allan Hancock Fire Academy. Upon graduation I spent my first two seasons on Crew 7, a hand-crew based out of the Santa Lucia District Ranger’s Office in Santa Maria. I’ve spend my six season career with the US Forest Service on crews, engines and a helicopter fighting fire across the western United States.
There are Federal, State, County and City agencies. USFS is federal, CalFire is state, Santa Barbara County is county and Santa Barbara City is city (municipal). The main difference is that the USFS is primarily concerned with Wildland Fire where as CalFire, County and City are all risk meaning they respond to fire, medical, car accidents, hazmat, etc.
I love the thrill and excitement of fighting fire. However, as a career path I’d like to dedicate my time to various entrepreneurial endeavors. I want to carve out my own niche and start my own business that I feel brings much needed attention and value to fire prevention. I’m currently involved with the Wildland Residents Association (NOTE: https://www.wildlandresidents.org - great link to information plus lots of radio shows to tune into w/good local info.) and the San Marcos Pass Volunteer Fire Department teaching fire behavior, fuels, defensible space and other topics I’m trained in.
Having been on numerous fires throughout the state I’ve noticed a lack in Defensible Space and began to wonder why this is an issue. I researched educational material and found plenty. Every fire department I’ve looked at has good information and will even assess properties for free if requested. My next step was to figure out how to get the work gets done. I contacted local tree services companies and asked about defensible space as if I were a homeowner. I quickly realized that although they provide and advertise Defensible Space Clearing on their websites, many were not able to convince me they understood fire behavior and why the work needs to be done other than to remove brush. This is why I started Central Coast Brush Clearing - a Wildfire Defensible Space company ran by firefighters.
I want to be out there educating homeowners the basics of fire behavior and the logic behind Defensible Space. Hopefully I can alleviate the burden of “expensive yard work” and further define and explain the “why” behind the work
How did you join forces with Chris Willingham from Santa Barbara Tree Care?
Chris Willingham, owner of Santa Barbara Tree Care, was very receptive to my initial line of questioning and was quite knowledgable on Defensible Space. Having 20+ years as a professional arborist I knew this would be a great partnership opportunity.
Santa Barbara Tree Care is capable of Defensible Space and Fire Clearance services but it isn’t their expertise. Our partnership provides the best of both worlds, Central Coast Brush Clearing has the Fire Clearance and Defensible Space expertise and Santa Barbara Tree Care has the tree care and arborist and tree care expertise. Together we are able to provide our clients a service backed by experience and the know-how to get the job done safely and quickly.
My goal is to work with Real Estate and Insurance Companies to educate homeowners and implement proper Defensible Space. We focus on properties with large hillsides, homes up and down the 154, Camino Cielo, Mission Canyon, Toro Canyon, Carpinteria to name a few. Where there’s a hill and a house there’s a need.
As of right now we are a crew of four Wildland Firefighters with three to twelve seasons of experience and training in fire behavior, fuel characteristics and first-hand experience fighting fire. Together we bring over twenty years of experience to the job and love every hard working minute of it.
Do you just service Santa Barbara county?
Right now we are growing, Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez are where most of our calls are coming from. I named the company Central Coast Brush Clearing with the intention of serving the central coast from Paso Robles down into Ventura. I spent college years in San Luis Obispo and have plenty of firefighter connections in those areas. With seasonal firefighters all over the Central Coast we are able to provide exceptional service everywhere.
Would all homes benefit from defensible space or just homes in high fire areas?
There’s always something that can be done to a home. Car accidents happen, power lines fall and there is no shortage of dry combustible fuel around homes in city limits. Defensible Space is as much providing a safe working environment for responding firefighters as it is defending your home. Keeping weak tree branches from extending over access roads, driveways, roofs, chimneys, etc. “Hardening” (http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Hardening-Your-Home/) homes is a very important part of Defensible Space. As far as value, our efforts are most effective doing what we have been trained to do quickly and safely on fires - cut fire line and remove vegetation with chainsaws and hard work.
What’s the process, how can someone hire you and what are the costs?
Anyone can hire us by going to our website (https://www.centralcoastbrushclearing.com) or messaging us through our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/firelandscapespecialst). Our phone number is listed and I respond to emails, texts, messages, calls and just about any medium people use these days. Part of our mission is education as well and we are happy to give free assessments for homeowners interested in the conversation. Should they decide to hire us we are very flexible with pricing and work that cater to each project’s needs. Typically a crew of us four, fully self-sufficient, licensed and insured, ready to go ranges from $1,200 - $1,400 per day depending on travel or special needs. Some homeowners just want us to cut and other’s would like everything done. We’re here to fill in the gaps and work within their budget!
What’s the most important reason why home owners shouldn’t wait until fire season?
It’s too hot and typically we are out of town fighting fire! Take advantage of cool winter weather and lower temperatures. We run all kinds of machinery and these engines get hot. Obviously starting a fire is extremely counter-productive and we will actually limit summer working hours or will not work at all on days that are just too hot. Our employees are active and former firefighters so many of us are just too busy to be available during the fire season months of May - November.