It is easy to forget during the winter, but as things dry out in the summer months, there is a growing risk of fires to Southern California. Surrounded by wildlands, properties in and around the Santa Clarita Valley are threatened by wildfires and it is important for everyone to be prepared.
“Most of our wildland fire challenges are as it gets hotter, mixed with the heat and the winds and very dry vegetation. We are most vulnerable to those types of fires in the summer months and in the fall.” said Stephanie English, Los Angeles County Fire Department Community Services Liaison.
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There are a few ways that you can prepare your home and your family for fire season. Having family disaster plan ahead of time is key to making the evacuation process as easy as possible. However, if you only have a few moments to pull together the things you need, the LA County Fire Department suggests this checklist:
Keep a pair of old shoes and a flashlight handy for a night evacuation.
Keep the six “P’s” ready, in case an immediate evacuation is required:
• People and pets
• Papers, phone numbers, and important documents
• Prescriptions, vitamins, and eyeglasses
• Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
• Personal computers (information on hard drive and disks)
• “Plastic” (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash
“The ideal is for the Command Staff to evacuate residential neighborhoods early. The fire might not feel threatening to you and your neighborhood at the time Sheriff’s deputies are asking you to evacuate.” English went on to explain that early evacuation is planned to give residents a chance to collect their things and avoid panic during evacuation.
“It ensures your safety by leaving your house and helps the firefighters do their best job by being able to get in and out and maneuver and work easily without a lot of traffic. In addition, they don’t have to worry about life safety, they’re just worrying about protecting your structure.” English added.
Fire and evacuation information can be found on your local news stations. During a fire, KHTS AM-1220 offers current updates on evacuations, road closures, fire containment, and everything you need to know on our website (hometownstation.com), in our breaking news alerts (to sign up, click here), and 24/7 on air.
Since major fires will probably not start for a couple months, there is time to work on preparing your home against fire damage. Last year, more that $65 million of property and structure losses were reported by the LA County Fire Department. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection gives these suggestions so you can protect your home and property against a fire:
Create Defensible Space:
Defensible space is essential to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. It’s the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, or shrubs that surround it. In addition to protecting your home from catching fire from direct flame contact or radiant heat, defensible space is important for the protection of the firefighters defending your home. Two zones make up the required 100 feet of defensible space: Zone 1 and Zone 2.
Zone 1 extends 30 feet out from buildings, structures, decks, etc.
- Remove all dead plants, grass and weeds (vegetation).
- Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters.
- Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees.
- Remove branches that hang over your roof and keep dead branches 10 feet away from your chimney.
- Relocate wood piles into Zone 2.
- Remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows.
- Remove vegetation and items that could catch fire from around and under decks.
- Create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, wood piles, swing sets, etc.
- Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of 4 inches.
- Create vertical and horizontal spacing between grass, shrubs, and trees.
- Remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones, and small branches. However, they may be permitted to a depth of 3 inches if erosion control is an issue.
To see diagrams and formulas to determine proper vertical and horizontal spacing between trees and shrubs, click here.
Harden your home:
Flying embers destroy homes up to a mile from wildland areas. Hardening your home may help prevent fire that could be avoided.
Roof and patio cover: The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. Replace wood or shingle roofs with materials such as composition, metal, or tile. Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching.
Vents: Cover all vent openings with 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch metal mesh to close out flying embers. Protect vents in eaves or cornices with baffles.
Eaves and Soffits: Eaves and soffits should be protected with ignition-resistant or non-combustible materials.
Windows: Single-paned and large windows are vulnerable to heat from a wildfire that can cause them to break before the home ignites. Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass and consider limiting the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation.
Walls: Walls with ignition resistant building materials like stucco, fiber cement, wall siding, fire retardant, treated wood, or other approved materials are a better option that combustible wood paneling or shingles. Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.
Decks: Surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant, non-combustible, or other approved materials.
Ensure that all combustible items are removed from underneath your deck.
Rain Gutters: Screen or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris
Chimney: Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-combustible screen. Use metal screen material with openings no smaller than 3/8 inch and no larger than 1/2 inch to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.
Garage: Have a fire extinguisher and tools such as a shovel, rake, bucket, and hoe available for fire emergencies. Install weather stripping around and under the garage door to prevent embers from blowing in. Store all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.
Fences: Consider using ignition resistant or non-combustible fence materials to protect your home during a wildfire.
Driveways and Access Roads: Driveways should be built and maintained in accordance with state and local codes to allow fire and emergency vehicles to reach your home. Consider maintaining access roads with a minimum of 10 feet of clearance on either side, allowing for two-way traffic. Ensure that all gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate emergency equipment.
Trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass.
Address: Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road.
Water Supply: Consider having multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property. If you have a pool or well, consider getting a pump
Here are some instructions from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection on making an effective family disaster plan:
1. Create a family disaster plan that includes meeting locations and communication plans and practice it regularly. Include in your plan the evacuation of large animals.
2. Have fire extinguishers on hand and train your family how to use them.
3. Ensure that your family knows where your gas, electric and water main shut-off controls are and how to use them.
4. Plan different evacuation routes and a meeting location outside the fire hazard area.
5. Appoint an out-of-area friend or relative as a point of contact so you can communicate with family members who have relocated.
6. Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers posted near your phone and in your emergency supply kit.
7. Assemble an emergency supply kit.
Supplies to take with you if you need to evacuate:
Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply)
Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply)
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
First aid kit
Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
Cell phone with chargers
Family and emergency contact information
Map(s) of the area
Other essential items that could not be replaced if they were destroyed
Keep an extra emergency supply kit in your car in case you can’t get to your home because of fire.
Have a portable radio or scanner so you can stay updated on the fire.
When a wildfire warning is issued:
Listen to the radio for reports and evacuation information and instructions.
Leave early enough to avoid getting caught in fire, smoke or road congestion. Don’t wait to be told by authorities to leave. In an intense wildfire, they may not have time to knock on every door. If you are advised to leave, don’t hesitate, GO!