This is just a quick report on fire prevention at my Rancho St. Francis located at 2920 W. Potrero Road, Hidden Valley, California.
I purchased the ranch in 2007 and proceeded to build two barns and two residences for the ranch manager and his family and the other for the ranch hands.
The property was originally in its rough natural state with no roads and lots of high growing brush. Fortunately, I contacted the Fire Station #32 near our property and met Captain Richard Sauer. I asked if he would kindly come to my ranch for fire prevention assessment. He kindly said he would come with his crew to look our place over. By this time, we had good concrete roads leading up to the lower and upper barn where the residences were located.
When I started to build my two barns and two residences in 2007 on my ranch, I called upon Rich Sauer to assist me with the wildfire danger in this area. Mr. Sauer met with my Ranch Manager (Miguel Vega) and discussed the clearance needed for my property. He pointed out that the structures that are going to be built would be on a mid-slope and between two drainages. Mr. Sauer explained to Miguel the importance of the 100’ required clearance from the local fire department. He also explained the additional clearance needed to provide a temporary safe refuge area for the residents and livestock in case they could not evacuate and had to shelter in place. I appreciated Mr. Sauer’s professional advice and we created the additional clearance of brush. Mr. Sauer provided our staff with a wealth of knowledge from his 27 years of wildfire experience. He recommended we practice an annual wildland fire evacuation drill. We scheduled a date and he provided his expertise with having a plan, understanding trigger points, staying calm and acting decisively. We learned that it would take approximately 4 hours to completely evacuate our residents and horses to a safe place. We now understand the importance to keep in contact with high fire danger news reports, practice our wildfire drill annually with Mr. Sauer and keep phone numbers current with our local friends and residents to assist us in case of a wildfire.
In a day or two, Capt. Sauer came with a big yellow fire truck and three members of his crew. He met Miguel Vega our ranch manager and his ranch hands, as well as, myself and proceeded to advise us on how we should prepare for any fire which over the years during summer months had been prevalent.
He pointed out that fire hydrants working off of our four 2,000-gallon water tanks along with some fire hoses would be a good deterrent should a small fire happen in this upper barn area.
First he said under any circumstance, if a fire begins even a small one, call 911, as they spread rapidly and we may not be able to contain them on our own. He then even instructed our staff members to wear cloth rather than plastic jackets and certainly construction type helmets and goggles, and in fact, masks from smoke inhalation. We noted and followed his instructions to the letter and purchased equipment accordingly.
Then Capt. Sauer with his crew pointed out how we must trim behind growing bushes at least a hundred feet away from any building. Furthermore, he told us that more fire hydrants and hoses strategically placed over our 23-acre property would be wise. Although the County demands four fire hydrants on our large property, we ended up putting 16 with ample fire hoses and connection close to each hydrant in case of emergency.
As we continued Capt. Sauer’s experienced analysis, we learned that our property adjacent to the Potrero Road had overgrown brush which could easily be set on fire by careless cigarette smokers tossing their still lighted cigarette out their car windows and reaching our brush. We complied and trimmed down all that brush adjacent to our wrought iron fence along Potrero Road.
We asked Capt. Sauer if he could kindly visit our ranch every three months and inspect and advise us further. He kept his promise and we got to really know him and his crew. We further expanded our fire prevention by widening a dirt trail from our upper barn up to a large dirt pasture that we had plowed for our rescued horses. This would allow a fire water tanker to drive up this now 11-foot wide dirt road to fight fire if necessary.
Captain Sauer brought to our attention that the upper portion of our property had lots of high brambly brush and trees that would easily burn rapidly if a fire from lightning or any means struck there. We decided to clear that out and irrigate it to make a large pasture for many rescued horses, some 50 by this time, and put more fire hydrants in that area whereas both sides of this 340-foot square pasture was surrounded by large trees and brush government owned property, and on the east, overgrown brush owned by a Chicago attorney that had over a hundred acres extending over the hill and down the other side where there are some ranch homes.
Our new pasture with the two new hydrants and hose would be a great place for the fire department to fight any fire that might erupt from east to west.
Capt. Sauer concluded that this was very good preparation and would be helpful to all fighting a mountain brush fire that would spread rapidly.
Capt. Sauer has been relocated to Station 43 in Simi Valley and we continue to consult with him every fire season.
To whom it may concern;
Reference; Owner Richard Sauer of Micro-Droplet Systems
I am writing to recommend the services of the Richard Sauer and his forward thinking conservative approach to water conservation in the Fire Service. I have been a friend and Co-worker of Richard for 29 years, his passions for new technology coupled with advances in training has driven him to the field of new advances in water application devices. Richard has always been a reliable friend that focuses on integrity and a “Do the right thing” mind set. It is my pleasure to write this letter on behalf of his company Micro-Droplet Systems. I have been a member of the Fire Service for 30 years and I have held numerous positions to validate the ethics of Richard Sauer. I am sure the progressive agencies that invest time and money with Richard and Micro-Droplet Systems will find what others have grown to know about Richard, His willingness to serve. I’m happy to recommend the services of Micro-Droplets System. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Division Chief Emergency Services Ventura County Fire Department
Type I Federal Team Operations Section Chief
Santa Paula Orchard Fire
While working shift my engine company responded with an additional company to a call that was dispatched as a fire miscellaneous. On arrival it was found to be a slow creeping fire in heavily pilled avocado leaves. The fire was located in the middle of the orchard. The orchard had very poor access; all of the access roads would not allow our apparatus to drive to the location of the fire. A slight East drift near a propane tank was pushing the fire.
We utilized the manpower from both engine companies to stretch 1200 feet of hose to reach the fire and extinguish it. After overhaul and mop up, came the cleanup. This ended up taking six personnel three hours to pull the hose out roll it, wash it, reload it, and essentially clean all the equipment, for a small less than quarter acre leaf fire.
A patrol equipped with a Fire Express pump would have allowed us to drive right up to the fire, extinguish it, mop up, and clean up in about 30 minutes. This would have saved hours of clean up, man power, and would have shortened our out of service time. An added bonus especially with the drought we are facing would have been the water we would have conserved with a Fire Express Pump. The amount of water it took filling 1200 feet of 1 ½” hose was five times the amount we would have used had we been able to use a Fire Express pump and nozzle. Overall a smaller vehicle equipped with a Fire Express pump would have saved time, energy, and resources.
Ventura Farms: Westlake, California 10/15/2107
Rich Sauer provided education and training for our ranch employees on wildfire mitigation, safety, and preparedness planning. Our ranch has never received this depth of information regarding the importance to prepare for a wildfire. We purchased 3 WASP units as part of our plan to protect our ranch structures, horses, and other farm assets. Rich always contacts me when a fire weather red flag warning is issued. This information helps me prepare our employees to be ready with the WASP units and to reduce work in high fire hazard areas on our Ranch. Rich treats or Ranch as if it were his own and I appreciate his passion and wildfire knowledge.
I highly recommend Rich to educate and train anyone that needs a wildfire mitigation and safety plan.
Ventura Farms Ranch Manager & Senior Accountant
To whom it may concern
I met Capt. Rich Sauer in Dec. 2017 when he and his colleagues helped prepare and protect our property during the Thomas fire. Rich initially evaluated the fire defensibility of the house, which is located on a hilltop in a vulnerable part of Ventura County, Based on this he indicated the strategy that he would adopt if the property was threatened by the fire, and provided us with various recommendations for precautions to take relative to vehicles and other structures prior to the fire approaching.
Rich also supervised site preparations by fire department personnel in anticipation of having to deal with the fire. He was clearly extremely competent and very experienced in dealing with such threats. He was also very professional in dealing with us, the homeowners, in keeping us informed of plans to fight the fire, and what was expected of us. This communication continued during the time that we had, of necessity, to be absent the property. These efforts are greatly appreciated.
I have visited Rich’s website and it is clear that his many years of experience have led to the development of the innovative WASP fire suppression system. This appears to be a system whose time has come in the face of more and more scarce water resources. It would seem that any firefighting organization should be considering the WASP system as an absolutely necessary part of their arsenal of firefighting tools.
Nick Coetzee Ph.D., P.E
Saving Ocean Ranch
In December 2017, I met with another homeowner to protect during the Thomas Fire. This is the Ocean Ranch Organic Granola property. The Thomas fire was moving towards his property and would have burned everything in its path had we not stayed to defend it.
This beautiful property consisted of his home, over 100 citrus trees, and a lot of his Organic Granola product stored in the barn. The owner had been up for more than 48 hours trying to prepare for the fire prior to our arrival. He was exhausted.
I met with the homeowner, our engine and one other engine company, and Strike Team Leader to explain the plan to move the fire around the property by burning out the fuel between us (property) and the approaching fire. This tactic is about knowing the area, studying the approaching fire with a strong wind pushing it, and timing. It also includes to know what’s down wind such as other engine companies and structures. In this case, our firing operation burned into the approaching fire without causing any concerns.
The Ocean Ranch Owner was very grateful that we stayed to defend his property.
Re: Fire assessment and planning with Rich Sauer
We moved to a home in the hills of Simi Valley in early 2018. Our previous homes were in West LA so we knew we needed professional advice now that we were living in an area that could be affected by wildfires. We were introduced to Rich by our home owner’s insurance agent and have been grateful ever since.
Rich came to the house and walked the entire interior and exterior with us. He listened to how we use the space and what we thought we would do in the event of a wildfire (or other disaster) before making recommendations that are appropriate and realistic for us. Rich identified actions that we could take immediately to help protect our home and has returned to the house several times to follow up (he’s incredibly responsive) and continue sharing some of the fundamentals from his years of experience.
Together we have updated our evacuation plan checklist. We’ve discussed potential evacuation routes. We learned how to watch the wildfire’s smoke and wind direction, the distance that a wildfire can spark, and how the topography around our house could affect the progress of a wildfire.
And then came the day that the Woolsey fire started… We monitored the news for several hours and it became clear that we might need to reference our evacuation plan sooner than we had hoped. As we stood on the balcony and watched a sight that is all-too-familiar for Californians – the Martian red/orange glow of a night sky on fire – we knew we should start preparing. Although it was sad to think we might have to say goodbye to our home, we weren’t panicked. We took our evacuation checklist off the wall and followed the steps we had planned. We packed each bag exactly according to our plan and continued monitoring the situation. Mother Nature took the fire in a different direction this time and we are indebted to her. However, the knowledge we have gained while working with Rich has provided a sense of peace that we are prepared to the best of our ability for the actions that are within our control.
In today’s busy world, daily life can distract us from tending to our most basic needs. Spending a few hours with Rich and then investing the time to proactively implement the recommended plan is invaluable. The safety of one’s family and, to the extent possible, protection of one’s home are primal instincts. Rich’s guidance helped us structure a plan and think through scenarios in advance thus allowing us to follow our instincts when circumstances require. I’d strongly encourage you to partner with Rich to develop a plan that is appropriate for your needs. I suspect you’ll soon be calling Rich a friend, as we do, and you’ll be appreciative of and reassured by his counsel.
– Senior Media Executive (Simi Valley, CA)