Ashland Fire and Rescue is applying for a $4 million FEMA pre-disaster mitigation grant for the Fire Adapted Ashland Program.
The request for the grant application was approved by City Council last week.
Alison Lerch, Fire Adapted Communities Coordinator, said Fire and Rescue will ask for $3 million with a $750,000 matching requirement. A combination of existing, budgeted staff time and required landowner contribution will cover the matching requirement. No new city funds are requested as a condition of the grant, according to a staff report.
“The FEMA grant is really the one-stop shop that we feel that we can get a large sum of money to help reduce wildland fire fuels as well as ignition resistant construction retrofits,” Lerch said.
The grant will serve as reimbursement over the course of three years for the new Wildfire Mitigation Ordinance passed in September. This means that homes participating in the voluntary fire safe landscaping and gardening projects would receive a 75 percent rebate. Additionally, owners of homes that need to be retrofitted with safer materials could also apply.
“We have 41 wood-shake roofs in our city that we know of,” Lerch said. “So, this would provide a 75 percent reduction for these individuals to replace their roofs.”
Lerch said staff completed an analysis, or sidewalk service, of every structure in Ashland this past spring. The robust data collected is leverage for the grant, Lerch said. So is the new wildfire mitigation ordinance.
“Using this data, we will directly communicate and offer a 75 percent assistance to the highest 1,000 homes (most at risk),” Lerch said. “That’s a lot of homes that we could do with this grant.”
The grant would pay for a FEMA employee who would assess at least two homes a day. At the end of three years, the FEMA employee would no longer work for the city.
The analysis is to be based off of the wildfire mitigation ordinance requirements.
“Thus, pushing us that much further to getting a more standard, defensible space in our city,” Lerch said.
Residents who apply to the grant have two options. For those who can afford it, they can hire a contractor to do the work and pay them in full, then receive the rebate.
But for those who don’t have that kind of cash, an in-kind agreement can be worked so, the homeowner could perform some of the work.
The official grant application is due by January. If successful, Fire and Rescue will hear back in May and funding could come as early as winter 2019/2020.