The Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company and Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services donated $50,000 to the Montecito Fire Protection District in anticipation of a particularly high-risk fire season.

The grant will support Montecito’s “Neighborhood Defensible Space Program,” which contracts local waste management service providers to remove flammable vegetation around homes. The program runs from April through June and teaches homeowners how to create a safe zone of open space around their residences.

Montecito Fire Dept. Public Information Officer Geri Ventura said the grant will provide vital services to an area highly prone to wildfires, including neighborhoods such as West Mountain Drive, Sierra Vista Avenue and Pepper Hill.

“This is a very fortunate opportunity for the people of Montecito,” Ventura said. “The area has been ravaged by fires for the past 10 years. In 2008, a wildfire destroyed over 100 homes in Montecito. Even though there have not been any major fires in the past two years, this has been a particularly dry winter and the risk for another fire is very high.”

Rachael Clark, grant manager for the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, said the donation is part of the FFIC’s nationwide philanthropic program, which aims to reduce the risks and damages of wildfires.

According to Clark, the FFIC has consistently set aside a portion of their profits to provide aid for the widows and orphans of firefighters since the organization’s founding in 1863. This practice in turn expanded into providing equipment, training and community education for at risk-areas and departments.

“Since the grant was created in 2004, The Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company has donated over $29 million nationwide and over $8 million in California alone,” Clark said. “It is part of our heritage to give money towards educating people to protect their property against fires.”