Much of Southern California lies in what the government and insurance companies call a brush zone. But whether you live in a brush zone or not, you can pass through fire season with flying colors by taking a few simple steps to make your home and property more fire safe. Here is a short list to help get you ready for wildfire season:
1. Create Defensible Space
There are two zones within the 100 ft perimeter around a home: Zone 1 is from the home to 30 ft around it, and Zone 2 is from 30-100’ past that. Zone 1 requires that no vegetation come into contact with the home, outdoor furniture or other structures. It also requires that plant and other debris be cleared out from underneath decks.
1. Clear brush and debris within a 100 ft perimeter or to the property line if that is closer.
2. Space plants and shrubs so that fire cannot spread easily. Vertical and horizontal vegetation spacing is necessary: 6’ minimum branch to ground clearance and a 3x minimum shrub to tree branch clearance.
3. Many of us in San Diego live on slopes. Slopes require even greater tree and shrub spacing to remain fire-safe.
4. Use fire resistant plants in your landscaping. Fire safe landscaping can be inexpensive, save water, and add beauty and safety to your home
thereby increasing your property value.
2. Harden Your Home
- Few homes still have wood roofs, but if yours does replace it with a metal, tile or composition roof.
- All vents should be covered with 1/8” – 1/4” metal mesh.
- The new hot issue in fire safety is boxed eaves. Insurance companies in Southern California collectively refused to insure most homes with wooden roofs after the 2003 Cedar fires because many of the homes that were destroyed had wooden roofs. In the most recent fires, many of the homes that were destroyed had one main cause of accessibility to embers: unboxed eaves. Box your eaves with a fire-resistant or noncombustible material.
- Chimney and stovepipes – cover with a nonflammable screen of no more than ½ inch. Trim tree branches to 10 ft away.
- Use fire resistant building materials on your home’s exterior.
- Remove leaves and pine needles from your roof and rain gutters.
- Screen or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris.
- Double-paned windows and tempered glass, weather stripping, and non-wooden building materials all help keep windows and homes intact during the intense heat and wind of a fire.
Do BOTH Steps 1 & 2 to create the best chance of escaping fire damage.
3. Create A Plan
- Have several different evacuation routes in case one or more become blocked by fire or emergency personnel.
- Have a meeting destination outside the fire hazard area.
- Create a disaster kit: have tools and a fire extinguisher in your garage, have a three day supply of water and non-perishable food for each member of your household, a first aid kit, baby food and supplies, medicine and inhalers for members of the household who require them, contact lenses, glasses, flashlight with extra batteries, and cash and/or checks.
4. Check Your List
As fire approaches – make sure you have everything you need to take with you as well as your disaster kit.
- Important papers: Keep ready to grab in a waterproof container: your family trust, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks/bonds, passports, social security cards, immunization records, bank account numbers, credit cards, passwords that are difficult to remember, important telephone numbers, family records, & an inventory of your valuable household items.
5. Evacuate Early
This gives your family the best chance of a safe evacuation while clearing the road of congestion and helping keep our emergency personnel safe and allowing them to do their jobs. They have been trained to save your home and are the most capable people to do so.
By following these simple steps we can all help weather Southern California’s fire season safely and efficiently.
“5 Simple Steps to Being Fire Ready” by Lauren Lanni
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