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Fire Season’s Heating Up: Time to Consider Private Firefighting?

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All the rain we had this spring was lovely, but it generated new growth in the hills that now with the extreme heat is dying out.

Fire season in California is all -year round now, but the extent of drying brush and the high temperatures mean fire danger is even higher now at the peak of summer. Riverside County saw four different fires already this past weekend. 

During the Woolsey Fire, the fire department was overloaded with demand as fires sprang up from north San Fernando Valley to Malibu. They never made it to many neighborhoods, including most of Malibu and Agoura. 

Other than all the recommended steps, which include brush clearance, tree trimming and creating “defensive space” around your house, what can a homeowner do in another inferno like Woolsey?

Kim Kardashian brought in a private crew during the Woolsey Fire. Insurance companies pay for fire specialists for those homeowners on the Forbes 400 Rich List. The City of Hidden Hills has its own fire engine. 

But are private firefighters just for the rich?

“Not at all,” says Kris Brandini, owner of  Firebreak Protection Systems in Simi Valley.

According to Brandini, service to a property by their private service can range from  fire monitoring and reporting to fire prevention spraying or actual deployment during a fire.

“It all depends on the size of the property and location,” he told Valley News Group.  “Before we are hired we do an analysis – what is the threat, what can be done before a fire, and how can we access the property during a fire?” 

Brandini says for many homes south of the boulevard bordering the Santa Monica Mountains,  “You are not allowed to cut the brush if it’s public land, but you can spray it.” Firebreak can spray the area surrounding a residence with phosphate  – the same chemical you see sprayed by the “super scoopers” on fires, but it’s clear; it just doesn’t have the coloring fire departments use to track their drops.

Firebreak offers year-round service, including 24/7 alerts if a fire breaks out in an area near your residence.  They monitor fire movement, and if necessary, come in to fight the fire at your property.

It is true that many insurance companies do hire private fire fighting services to do this. Tim Gaspar of Gaspar Insurance in Woodland Hills says that in order to qualify for this service your home must be at least 3,500 square feet and be insured with a private carrier like Chubb, Nationwide or AIG. “The insurance companies are not really concerned with the market value of a home,” said Gaspar. “It’s all about replacement cost. And you pay for that insurance. The cost to insure a home in a fire zone can vary greatly – but the premium can easily be over $50,000 a year. It’s actually gotten difficult for folks in Bell Canyon and some parts of Hidden Hills to get insurance with these carriers because they are too close to brush for most companies.”

What does LAFD think about private services? Their public information spokesman told Valley News Group, “The Los Angeles Fire Department does not independently assess these agencies or private services. Often it’s the insurance companies that hire them. LAFD does not have an opinion on them.”

Brandini says private services offer  protection – but also peace of mind. “The shift to private firefighting is because of the personal attention given. We update you during fire. We can call and say your house is fine. We can check on pets, belongings. We are evolving into a concierge service, but not for the wealthy only.”

For more information on Firebreak’s private fire protection service, call  (805) 584-6800 or visit firebreakpro.com.


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