With the growing drought and heat, California is in a battle with wildfires. The state is in it’s fourth year of drought and has seen 1,500 more blazes this year than last year. With the onset of the Santa Ana winds, it’s possible the wildfire season will increase even into early fall. Firefighters are reporting that the fires have burned unpredictability and ferociously this year, which is unusual. This is likely due to the extended drought resulting in dense, dry undergrowth. With this growing unpredictability, it’s very important to be prepared.
Even though wildfires are dangerous and unpredictable, they are escapable if you are prepared. After all, it is a matter of life or death. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a wildfire if one happens to occur in your neighborhood.
There are many forms of media that keep us up-to-date on local disasters. Stay informed by educating yourself on your favorite news sources. A good resource for current fire information? is on the California government website.
If you can see a blaze or smoke in the distance, don’t assume you shouldn’t evacuate if you haven’t received evacuation orders yet. Be diligent and contact your local authorities.
Put together an emergency supply kit long before a wildfire, or other disaster, occurs in your neighborhood. Keep it easily accessible for a quick evacuation.
It should take no longer than 15 minutes to evacuate your home. So, have a plan with valuable items, important documents and family members ready for a quick departure.
Talk to each family member about protocol on what to do if a wildfire occurs. Set up a meeting place (outside the fire zone). There should be at least two evacuation routes. Also, set up an out-of-area contact person as a point of contact if the family gets separated.
Maker sure your vehicle is in good condition with a full tank of gas. Keep an emergency supply kit in the vehicle along with a change of clothes. In addition, keeping a portable radio or scanner will help you stay updated on the fire while evacuating.
Have an evacuation plan for your pets and large animals such as horses and livestock. Many communities have shelters that can take in pets during a wildfire disaster.
Teach each family member how to safely shut-off the gas, electric, and water main controls for the home.
Review your homeowners insurance policy and review your list of all your home’s contents to make sure it’s up-to-date.
Widen your driveway so it can accommodate a heavy fire truck and make sure your driveway has a solid driving surface.
Grass, leaves and branches can give fuel to a fire. If any of these can reach from the ground to a crown of a tree, it is called ladder fuel because it provides a ?ladder? for the fire to climb from the ground to the crown of the tree. You can eliminate this by mowing tall grass, pruning all the lower branches of the tress and trimming shrubs.
Connect garden hoses long enough to reach any area of the property. A garden hose can be a lifesaver by being accessible to fill large containers, preventing the fire from spreading.
Using rock and stone landscaping materials around the house can be beneficial in preventing the fire spreading to your home.
Make sure firefighters can reach all your home’s defensible zones. Remove old cars, lumber piles, downed trees and other debris. Also, don’t forget to clean the roof, gutters and windowsills from debris such as leaves and needles.
When doing upgrades and remodeling on your home, use less flammable materials such as brick, stone and metal for roofing and siding.
Large wildfires can actually ignite sheer curtains inside the home due to the radiant heat. Use closable shutters for large windows in your home.
Store all your flammable materials (gasoline, oily rags, etc.) in approved safety cans. Keep them in a fire-resistant metal building or your garage.
Consider building a pond near the home. This could be a useful safety net to distinguish any fire threats.