North Orinda shaded fuel break aims to keep wildfires from getting big

The once lush green hills above the Orinda-Lafayette border are starting to turn brown.

The drier it gets, the bigger the fire danger.

But the Moraga-Orinda Fire Prevention District has a plan it hopes will keep a wildfire from getting big.

It's called the North Orinda Shaded Fuel Break, a 14-mile project stretching between Tilden Park in Berkeley to the City of Lafayette.

The plan is to remove the brush and undergrowth with chain saws and controlled fire while leaving the area shaded.

"...And really create an area where firefighters can get in and stop a high wind, low humidity widfire before it gets into the residential areas just over the hill," said Dennis Rein, spokesman for the Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District.

The project covers more than 1,500 acres and is on CalFire's top ten list of priorities.

"What we've got now is kind of a mess from a fire persepctive," Rein said.

Once the fuel break is established, firefighters can make a stand against a wildfire looking to grow bigger and stronger.

The project will help make up for years of not removing these potential fire fuels.

"I wish we'd been doing this all along," Rein said.

But firefighters say homeowners must still do their part. They say if residents don't make their property fire safe, they will send in a contracor to do it and give the property owner the bill.

Homeowners we spoke with say they're already on it.

"We had some bamboo and brush outside. So we cleared it out," said Bernice Lim of Orinda.

The fire break project is expected to start by June 1st, and take until the end of the year to complete.