Big Bear Valley, CA — ’Tis the season to clear defensible space, to ensure that your home, our community and the surrounding forest are fire-safe for the summer season. As emphasized by Big Bear Lake Fire Chief Rod Ballard prior to a Forest Care presentation at last night’s City Council meeting, “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of each of us taking steps to create defensible space around our homes.” In addition to the free opportunity available to all Big Bear Valley residents to participate in the free neighborhood chipping program (on demand at 877-771-CHIP), the Forest Care program through the San Bernardino National Forest Association provides a 75 percent reimbursement to homeowners who spend money on tree thinning, pruning and brush removal. As explained by Forest Care’s Megan Foucht, “It’s important to create that fire-safe boundary around your home. The tree density in Big Bear is a lot lower than in other mountain communities, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. It is really important to keep your forest healthy and your home fire-safe.” New this year is Forest Care’s reduced requirement; to qualify for 75 percent reimbursement in creating defensible space, properties must have 100 trees per acre (including seedlings)—or, say, if on a quarter acre, then 25 trees. To implement the process, call Forest Care at 888/883-THIN (or 8446); then, a CalFire forester will visit the property and mark trees for removal, then property owner completes the project and submits for reimbursement, upon which time the forester will revisit. “And then we cut a check,” says Foucht. “It’s pretty simple.” It takes about 60-90 days for reimbursement, though, to get started, both the 888/883-THIN phone line, as well as foresters, are available seven days a week. For more information on the Forest Care program, you can also visit their website at sbnfa.org/forestcare.php.