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Big Bear Lake

Big Bear LakeAt an altitude of 6,750 feet and surrounded by more than 1 million acres of National Forest, seven-mile long Big Bear Lake and its 22 miles of shoreline invite visitors to explore nature, enjoy outdoor recreation, or relax in the crystal-clear environment.  Boasting 300+ days of sunshine a year, Big Bear’s enticing lure of escape from city life draws thousands of vacationers, weekenders, and vacation homeowners.

History
The Big Bear Valley has a rich history that involves gold mining, logging, ranching, fox farms, movie shoots, and of course some of the largest Grizzly bears ever seen. Absent of this noticeable history is that of a large catastrophic wildfire. Since the United States Forest Service has kept records for over 107 years, the Big Bear Valley has not been affected by a large fire. Ultimately, this means that there is 107 years of forest fuels accumulation in the San Bernardino National Forest immediately adjacent to the City of Big Bear Lake. Over 60% of the San Bernardino National Forest immediately adjacent to the City of Big Bear Lake is a Condition Class 3. The forest is significantly overstocked with trees and filled with an estimated 14 million dead trees as a result of the recent bark beetle infestation and cyclical drought conditions.

In 2001, the City of Big Bear Lake was listed in the Federal Register as a Community at Risk of a wildfire.

In 2003, the entire community was evacuated as a result of the uncontrollable "Old Fire." Based upon a computer model, the Old Fire would have taken less than 24 hours to reach the Big Bear Valley if no suppression efforts took place. Yet, radical change in climatic conditions occurred, which included rain and snow, and the Old Fire never progressed into the Big Bear Valley

Big Bear LakeCommunity Wildfire Protection Plan
On July 10, 2006, the City of Big Bear Lake City Council voted to authorize the Mayor to acknowledge and sign the Big Bear Valley Community Wildfire Protection Plan. This Plan is entitled, a "Systems Approach." It was a collaborative effort of multiple agencies including San Bernardino National Forest representatives. The entire Community Wildfire Protection Plan can be viewed and downloaded at www.thinisin.org.

Wildfire protection strategies
The two preeminent wildfire protection strategies outlined in the Community Wildfire Protection Plan include the need to replace old shake shingle roofs and to conduct fuel reduction on private properties. Removing dead and live fuels from properties include increasing the horizontal and vertical distance between tree crowns, shrubs to tree crowns, and shrubs to shrubs, thereby creating a more fire resistive landscape.

Neighbrohood chipping program
The Big Bear Valley Fire Safe Council held its first Chipper Days in 2004. During the summer months of 2005 and 2006, the Big Bear Lake Fire Protection District and the City of Big Bear Lake partnered to provide a new service to the community of Big Bear Lake. The "neighborhood chipping party" provided property owners within 1,500 feet of the San Bernardino National Forest an incentive for creating defensible space around their homes. It provided a convenient way for homeowners to dispose of large tree limbs, branches, and tree stems by just placing the vegetation curbside. It was a huge success. To encourage property owners to conduct fuel reduction on their properties, the City Council/Fire Board authorized the purchase of a specialized chipper truck, a Bandit 250 wood chipper. In 2007, our Public Works team took over the reigns and collected 1,015 tons of material through our Neighborhood Chipping Program. The Neighborhood Chipping Program is partially funded through the United States Forest Service Community Assistance Grant Program.

Shake shingle roof replacement program
The second wildfire protection strategy that is critically important is the removal of shake shingle roofs from properties within the City of Big Bear Lake. In the summer of 2007, the City of Big Bear Lake City Council held hearings on the passage of a new ordinance with a “future effect” clause that requires the removal of all shake shingle roofs by the year 2012.

In conjunction with this ordinance, the City of Big Bear Lake/Big Bear Lake Fire Protection District received funding from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through a Hazard Mitigation Grant to reimburse identified property owners within 1,500 feet of the San Bernardino National Forest with up to 70% of the cost to replace their shake shingle roofs.