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City of Beverly Hills

Beverly HillsThe City of Beverly Hills is a world-class destination for many people; it is a community of people who care for each other and want to help their neighbors. The City is also known for Rodeo Drive, Sunset Boulevard, and Santa Monica Boulevard. One section of Beverly Hills is approximately 1.5 square miles with over 3,000 residents who live in the wildland/urban interface. This area is located in the northern part of the city with the boundary line of Sunset Boulevard on the south end and contains 1,374 homes. The housing density is sufficient for home ignition zones to overlap in many locations. While the fire department is well equipped and staffed, it would be overwhelmed if faced with a major wildland/urban interface fire. Residents approached the fire department to learn what they could do to help with this situation. The first community meeting took place in 2003; this is where the story of the Community of Beverly Hills becoming a Firewise community began.

Beverly HillsThe first step was to develop a Firewise board consisting of community members, fire department personnel, planning personnel, and building and safety personnel. Firefighter Greg Barton was selected to be the fire department member on the Firewise board. Community residents were asked to locate residents who would like to serve on the board for a minimum of one year. From this, the Community of Beverly Hills developed a board consisting of seven community residents and a member of the fire department. Since that time, the Firewise Board has had no difficulties identifying community members who wanted to serve on the Board.

The Community of Beverly Hills Firewise Board next needed to enlist a wildland/urban interface specialist to complete an assessment and create a plan from which it identifies agreed-upon, achievable local solutions. The Firewise board was much honored to obtain Jack Cohen of the USDA-Forest Service to conduct the assessment addressing the wildfire-related characteristics of Beverly Hills north of Sunset Boulevard. It examines the area's exposure to wildfire as it relates to ignition potential. The assessment did not focus on specific homes, but examined the community as a whole. This assessment was conducted on May 3 - 4, 2004 by the National Firewise Team.

Beverly HillsAnother very exciting event also occurred during the assessment period. Jack Cohen presented "How Homes Ignite" at the Beverly Hills Hotel to an audience of approximately 100 community residents, including Mayor Mark Egerman, and other members from the City Council. Also in attendance were members of the Beverly Hills Fire Department, Chief Officers from the Los Angeles Fire Department, and Chief Officers from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The assessment was presented to the Firewise Board President Fire Captain Greg Barton; it was evaluated by the Firewise board and accepted. The next step was to invest a minimum of $2.00 annual per capita. The Firewise Board started to work on a mitigation plan to address all of the issues in the assessment. The plan dealt with all items that were presented as potential problems to the community of Beverly Hills. The challenge was getting the word out to the community, and the Firewise Board sponsored Firewise Educational booths at numerous City of Beverly Hills events. Members of the Firewise Board and members from the fire department staffed these booths. This allowed questions to be answered by a team of community members and the fire department.

Beverly HillsThe Firewise Board also wanted to develop a public education display to assist the Beverly Hills residents in understanding the importance of Firewise principles. This project was the Firewise/Waterwise Mitigation Demonstration Garden. The Firewise Board collaborated with the City of Beverly Hills Fire Department, public works department, and the Office of Emergency Management to create the garden. The garden was funded through grant funds, City of Beverly Hills funds, and numerous volunteer hours from members of the community of Beverly Hills. The garden demonstrates how Firewise principles, Waterwise principles, and recyclable material can be aesthetically attractive and still be safe.

The community of Beverly Hills was the 3rd community in the State of California to become a Firewise Communities/USA site. This was a great accomplishment for the Community of Beverly Hills, but the work did not end with the award---it only started. The Community of Beverly Hills Firewise Board continues to get the message out on how to be Firewise. Plans are in the works for upcoming Firewise projects and programs for the residents of Beverly Hills. This is a great partnership between the citizens of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Fire Department. Both organizations have the same goal in mind---protecting life and property from a wildland/urban interface fire.