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North Side neighbors clear brush, protect against wildfire

El Chapparal/Fertile Valley HOA trying to become 'Firewise Community

SAN ANTONIO – A spark of community spirit could help save a North Side neighborhood from the spark of a wildfire.

Volunteers from the El Chapparal/Fertile Valley Homeowners Association gathered Saturday for a day of clearing brush. Helped by the San Antonio Fire Department and a chipper provided by the Texas A&M Forest Service, they collected and disposed of brush near a city right-of-way, hoping to reduce the wildfire risk in the area.

The community is trying to become a "Firewise Community," a recognition awarded by the National Fire Prevention Association, which requires conducting a "Firewise Day" event.

According to the program's website, benefits of being a Firewise Community include access to wildfire safety grant money, community building and civic pride. USAA also provides homeowners insurance discounts for people in Firewise communities.

RELATED: Texas faces at least $21 million in wildfire damages

The chief reason, though, is making the neighborhood safer.

"Obviously, we don't want our houses to go up in flames," Vickie Baldera said." It's an eyesore as well."

Whatever their reason, Baldera and dozens of others showed up for the cleanup.

"This is exactly what the Firewise process is intended to do," Texas A&M Forest Service wildland urban interface specialist Logan Scherschel said. "It gets the community involved in mitigating their own wildfire risk."

RELATED: SAFD opens first ever wild land fire station

It's a good deal for the SAFD, too, which would have to fight any wildfire that comes through.

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"If it comes to this area where it's treated, where we're doing the work today the fire will lay down, become more manageable, easier, safer for us to operate in," SAFD wildfire program coordinator Capt. Brian Stanush said.

Requirements for becoming a Firewise Community can be found on the program's website.

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