Last week, we talked about the importance of securing your home from intruders but there is another growing concern in California: wildfires. As our climate changes, red flag warnings have become a way of life in Silicon Valley and beyond, and preparing our homes, property, and family against the threat of wildfires is now a necessity.
Earlier this week, PG&E announced widespread potential power outages in numerous counties across the Bay Area, the new normal Californians must face, especially in autumn when temperatures are still high, winds pick up, and vegetation is at its driest after months without rain.
State of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, otherwise known as CalFire, “serves and safeguards the people and protects the property and resources of California.” According to CalFire, and as we’ve all experienced over the past few years, fire incidents are on the rise and are burning hotter, faster, and more unpredictably than ever before in our state’s history.
California has enacted laws requiring homeowners create defensible space around their homes. As defined by FEMA, a defensible space is an area around a building in which vegetation, debris, and other types of combustible fuels have been treated, cleared, or reduced to slow the spread of fire to and from the building.
Homeowners should have 100 feet of defensible space outward from all buildings, structures, and decks as well as creating proper vertical and horizontal spacing to eliminate or reduce the creation of a “fire ladder” among vegetation. Incorporating fire-resistant plants and landscaping materials in addition to keeping your yard well maintained can play a large part in creating your defensible space.
- Creating fire-resistant zones with stone walls, patios, walkways, and roadways
- Using rock, mulch, and flower beds to create fire breaks
- Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees
There are things you can do to prepare or “harden” your home against fire. One of the best is to download the Ready For Wildfire app to your smartphone. Available on Google Play and in the Apple App Store, this app guides homeowners with preparation advice and detailed action steps as well as provides custom alerts in the event of nearby wildfires.
Embers can become airborne, traveling up to a mile from the fire and igniting secondary fires. To “harden your home,” CalFire recommends taking these actions.
- Roof: Your primary hardening feature, it is vital to keep roof and gutters clear of all debris as well as ensure it is made from ignition-resistant materials.
- Vents: Cover and protect all openings
- Windows: Protect against blow-outs and install dual-paned windows.
- Rain Gutters: Screen or enclose to keep debris at a minimum.
- Chimney: Cover outlets with non-combustible screens
- Garage: Ensure a fire extinguisher is easily accessible.
- Driveways: Ensure your driveway complies with local fire code accessibility.
- Water Supply: Have numerous lengthy garden hoses available that can reach all sides of your house.
The Ready For Wildfire website and app also provides information on critical steps to take if evacuation is imminent, as well as power outage information, how to design an emergency plan for your family and a supply kit for each vehicle, and how to safely evacuate your family and pets in the event of a fire. The website also has a downloadable brochure for those who prefer a paper checklist.
Taking these steps to prepare your home and your family in the event of a fire incident have never been more important. We highly encourage you to review the Ready For Wildfire website, download the app, and make a plan.