By Phoebe Coburn, Communications Specialist for Teton Consevation District
Long-time Jackson resident Jean Ferguson is no stranger to wildfire. She grew up in Paradise, CA and lived in Thousand Oaks, CA for many years, both of which had devastating wildfires last year. The Woolsey Fire last fall forced Jean’s neighborhood in Thousand Oaks to evacuate. The home two doors down from hers caught fire. “All the firefighters were occupied,” she said. Luckily, another neighbor was a retired fire chief, and he was able to save the house and prevent the fire from spreading to nearby homes.
This summer, Jean had to evacuate her Jackson home because of wildfire, twice. She has some advice on how to be prepared. First, in the months leading up to the two fires, Jean completed vegetation removal on her property. She cleared dead and down brush and branches, moved combustible materials away from her house, pruned branches away from her exterior walls and roof, and removed trees that were encroaching on her driveway (which will help firefighters safely access her home in the event of a fire). She completed this work with the help of Teton Conservation District’s Wildfire Risk Reduction Program. Jean received a free Wildfire Risk Overview, which is an on-site consultation to help homeowners make a plan for reducing wildfire risk on their property. Jean has had other evaluations like this in the past, but “none were as thorough” as the Overview that Teton Conservation District provided. She also liked that all of the recommendations were completely voluntary. Upon completing the recommendations she was willing to implement, Jean received a 50% reimbursement from Teton Conservation District for the cost of the vegetation removal.
In addition to preparing your home and property for wildfire, Jean emphasized the importance of having an up-to-date communication plan in place with your neighbors. In Jackson this summer, neighbors had trouble getting in touch with new renters in the area to warn them that they needed to evacuate. She also advised that it’s important to put some thought into what you would take from your home in the event you only have a few minutes to evacuate, like she did. Jean said, ”In California, we always had a list and knew exactly what we would put in the car.”
The photos below are not of Jean Ferguson’s home, but of another property that received a Wildfire Risk Overview and completed vegetation management work similar to Jean.