Last year, nearly 561,000 acres in California were affected by wildfire. If your home is on the edge of a rural landscape, what’s the best way to protect it from fire? CalFire and the U.S. Fire Administration CalFire offer this checklist:
- Yard: Create a “Defensible Space” of 100 feet around your home. Within 30 feet, clear a “Lean, Clean and Green Zone” by removing all flammable vegetation. Within 70 feet, clear a “Reduced Fuel Zone,” removing lower tree branches at least six feet from the ground, landscaping with fire resistant plants, maintaining all plants with regular water, and removing dead branches, leaves and needles. Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from all structures. Any gas or propane tanks should be located at least 10 feet away from your home.
- Visibility: Make sure your street name sign is clearly posted at each intersection. Post your house address so it can be seen from the street, especially at night. (Address numbers should be at least three inches tall and on a contrasting background.)
- Roof: Install a fire resistant roof. Remove dead leaves and needles from your roof and gutters. Remove dead branches overhanging your roof and keep branches 10 feet from your chimney. Cover your chimney outlet and stovepipe with a nonflammable screen of 1/2-inch or smaller mesh.
- Water: Maintain and mark an emergency water supply such as a community water/hydrant system, a cooperative emergency storage tank with neighbors, or a pond or pool with at least 2,500 gallons. Create easy firefighter access to your closest emergency water source. If your water comes from a well, consider an emergency generator to operate the pump during a power failure.
- Home Design/Construction: Use ignition resistant construction. Enclose the underside of eaves, balconies and above ground decks with fire resistant materials. Consider installing residential sprinklers. Make sure electric service lines, fuse boxes and circuit breaker panels are installed and maintained per code.
- Equipment: Use care when operating equipment such as lawnmowers. One small spark may start a fire; a string trimmer is much safer.
- Preparation: Make a plan. Find the best two evacuation routes from your home and your community. Know how you will use them. Practice your plan with everyone in your family. (If you have a pet, include a leash or carrier in your planning.) Practice using both evacuation routes in case one is blocked by smoke or fire. Have a communication plan for your family members in case you aren’t together during an evacuation. Make an emergency bag. Put essential personal items in the bag so they’ll be ready to grab and go.
- Be alert: Know ahead of time how you will receive emergency information from officials in your community. In a wildfire, follow their evacuation instructions.