Hundreds of thousands of acres and countless homes are scorched by fire every year in California. Like earthquakes, wildfires are common in our terrain and are necessary for nature to regenerate itself. As homes continue to be built in 'fire country', the importance of preparation in undeniable. By preparing your home for fire, two benefits are reaped; Increased chance that your home can withstand an approaching fire and improved safety for firefighting resources.
Before a Structure Fire
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your residence. Place them outside sleeping, at the top of stairways, and near the kitchen. Check the batteries monthly, and change them out every six months.
- Smoke alarms become less affective with age. Replace them every ten years.
- Inspect and know how to operate your fire extinguisher.
- Identify escapes routes from your home. See the Make a Disaster Plan section for more information.
- Practice your escape routes while crawling. Practice with your eyes closed to ensure you could do it in heavy smoke. Remember to feel doors before opening them. If they are hot to the touch, find another exit.
- Conduct a home fire drill twice a year (Especially important if you have children).
During a Fire
- If your clothes catch fire: stop, drop and roll until you are extinguished. Do Not Run. Call 911.
- Think of your escape route, cover your mouth and crawl on your hands and knees. Check closed doors before you open them. Use the back of your hand to check if the door is hot.
- If the door is hot, find an alternate route. If you cannot escape, hang a light colored sheet out a window to alert emergency response personnel to your location.
- If the door is cool, open it cautiously and close it behind you. Closing doors behind you slows the spread of fire.
- Once you escape, call 9-1-1. Do not reenter the building.
Home Fire Safety Tips
- Keep a space heater a minimum of three feet away from flammable items.
- Do not use kerosene lanterns or stoves indoors.
- Have heating units inspected and cleaned annually by a certified specialist.
- Do not leave the clothes dryer on when no one is home.
- Do not leave candles unattended.
- Purchase UL approved lighting. Be extremely careful with holiday lighting. Do not overload circuits or leave Christmas trees lit while no one is home.
Before a Wildfire Threatens
- Visit the FireSafe Council website.
- Create a safety zone around your home. Safety zone size depends on the terrain you live in. Homes on steep slopes or in forests, will need larger safety zones. 30 to 100 feet is recommended for most homes.
- Remove all flammable vegetation around your home and property. Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures. Regularly clean roof and gutters.
- Enclose eaves and overhangs to prevent flammable materials and rising heat from become trapped.
- Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
- Remove dead tree branches that extend over the roof.
- Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
- Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
- Clear a 10-ft area around propane tanks and barbecues.
- Dispose of fireplace and grill ashes appropriately.
- Store firewood at least 100 ft away from your home and preferably uphill.
- Maintain adequate water source, such as a well, pool or hydrant.
- Have garden hoses and ladders available that can reach all areas of your home and other structures.
When a Wildfire Is Headed Towards Your Home
If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately.
If the wildfire is not an immediate threat:
- Back your car into the garage. Leave the keys in the ignition.
- Confine your pets to one room, or put them in the car if you are evacuating immediately.
- Put on protective clothing.
- Put your disaster kit in your car.
If you have plenty of time:
- Close windows, vents, and doors. Remove lightweight curtains
- Pull flammable furniture away from windows and glass doors. (Radiant heat can ignite objects indoors)
- Seal attic and ground vents with plywood.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Ensure garden hoses are connected to outside taps.
- Place a ladder against the house in plain view for emergency personnel.
- Disconnect automatic garage door openers and close the garage door.
- Remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.
- When you leave, turn on house lights to make house more visible, and leave doors unlocked to enable firefighters to make entry if necessary.