October 2020

Preparing for Fire Season

BY zach friend

Given the recent devastation in our county it’s important to review some of ways you can prepare and protect your home and business from wildfire. One of the first things is to ensure that you have a home emergency and evacuation action plan – and practice it with your family. Cal Fire has a program called Ready, Set, Go! to help you create your own action plan. Here are some key elements:

Get Ready
Create a family disaster plan that includes meeting locations and communication plans – including how to evacuate large animals. Create an emergency supply kit (more info on that below) and be sure your home has working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as well as fire extinguishers on hand and train your family how to use them. Additionally, ensure that your family knows where your gas, electric and water shut-off controls are and how to properly turn them on/off.

One of the most important things it to create a defensible space around your home. Defensible space is the buffer you create between your home and the vegetation that surrounds them to prevent these structures from catching fire.

California State law requires that you maintain 100 feet of defensible space around your home and other buildings on your property. This is a minimum recommended amount and should be increased if your home is on a steep slope. You can create a defensible space by ensuring that trees are the furthest from your home and elements that are less likely to burn (or burn at lower temperatures) such as lawns, small plants/beddings/high water content plants etc are closer to the home.

For the first 30 feet from all buildings, decks and structures you should:

  • Remove or mow all dead plants, grass, or weeds.
  • Create paved or gravel driveways, walkways, patios as firebreaks
  • Remove dead or dry leaves and needles from yard, roof, and gutters.
  • Trim trees regularly and maintain a minimum of 10’ between canopies.
  • Remove branches that overhang your roof and any dead branches close to chimney.
  • Remove flammable items near any structure

For the next 70+ feet from your home (extending to at least 100 feet from your home) you should:

  • Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of 4”
  • Maintain 10 ft clearance around woodpiles
  • Thin trees and shrubs and leave big gaps between plants
  • Remove dead or dry leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones, and branches from ground.

Get Set
Evacuate and alert family and neighbors that you are evacuating. Stay tuned to local media and official/governmental alerts and information for the latest updates. For example, you can sign up for emergency notices, such as Code Red at www.scr911.org to learn about possible evacuations or changes in conditions. Inside your house be sure to shut windows and doors (leave them unlocked for first responder access), remove flammable items away from windows and doors, shut off gas and the air conditioning. Outside your home leave the lights on, and remove any flammable items that are adjacent to the home and turn off any propane tanks that could be connected.

Cal Fire recommends you leave as early as possible to help firefighters keep the roads clear and give you the best opportunity to stay safe. Take your emergency supply kit (which you created above) which would have the following items: essential papers, phone numbers and other important documents, prescriptions such as medications and eyeglasses, pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia, your personal computer and cell phone (and chargers) and any credit cards or cash on hand. You will leave to a predetermined location in a low-risk area and be prepared to evacuate using more than one route if needed.

How can you get more information?
The Aptos/La Selva Department website – www.aptosfire.com – contains preparedness information on defensible space, general fire prevention and even the power shutoffs that have occurred. Fire Safe Santa Cruz County also maintains a comprehensive site with downloadable fact sheets and videos on how to prepare your home or business firesafesantacruz.org.

As always, I appreciate any feedback you may have on this (or any other County issue). I’m maintaining regular updates on social media at facebook.com/supervisorfriend and during the shelter-in-place order I’m hosting regular tele-townhalls with County and community leaders on Tuesday nights from 6-7 pm. The call in information for the town halls is 454-2222 with the Meeting ID: 145384# – you are welcome to speak about this issue during the town halls or you can always call me at 454-2200.

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