California, among other states, is experiencing another year of wildfires. Despite the beautiful scenery and slow pace of woodland areas, they pose a risk for going up in flames. According to Cal Fire, California saw approximately 4.2 million acres of land burned in wildfires. Additionally, 112 million tons of greenhouse gases were emitted from the fires, 11 million gallons of fire retardant deployed, and 31 lives lost. As of writing this article, California saw about 7 thousand fires alone, with approximately 1.8 million acres of land burned across the state.
Wildfires often begin unnoticed, but can grow at an exponential rate. They spread quickly, igniting almost everything in its path including towns and homes. Some homes do survive wildfires, however. Those that survive almost always do so because their owners had prepared ahead of time. If it’s predictable – it’s preventable.
Wildfire Preparedness Checklist
There are a number of things homeowners can do to protect their property from wildfires, or at least minimize the damage taken by fire.
- Make a disaster supply kit and an emergency readiness kit
- Have a family emergency plan
- Plan your landscape to include fire-resistant shrubs and trees
- Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year.
- Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher
- Install protective shutters or fire-resistant drapes
- Clear flammable items from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, tarp coverings, etc. It’s also a good idea to rake leaves, remove dead limbs and twigs, and clear our all flammable vegetation
- Install and maintain an adequate outside water source
- Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and property
- Consider buying a generator in case electrical power is cut off
- Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines
During a Wildfire
If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Bring your emergency and disaster kits and lock your home.
- Wear protective clothing when outside including sturdy shoes, cotton or wool clothes, long pants, a long sleeve shirt, gloves, and something to protect your face.
- Gather fire tool such as a rake, axe, a saw, and a bucket and shovel
- Close all shutters, blinds, or fire-resistant drapes. Make sure to close all doors, outside attic and basement, windows, pet doors, etc.
- Connect garden hoses to outdoor water faucet and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, or other large containers with water
- Place a ladder against the house in clear view to assist fire fighters
- Place valuable documents and other items in your car so that it’s ready for a quick departure
- Keep track of your pets and make sure they’re ready to leave with you
- Place water-resistant items in the pool or pond
- Move flammable furniture and items towards the center of the house and away from doors or windows
- Turn on all lights (inside and out) to make the house more visible in heavy smoke
Although wildfires are natural disasters, far beyond our means of control, we can still prepare our families and properties from being lost. Check with local emergency authorities to stay up to date with the news if a wildfire starts around your area. Remember, wildfires grow at an exponential rate and can spread to your area relatively quickly.