Brush Fires and Forest Fires and Wild Fires
Do you live where there are wooded areas, or near a forest, or in the mountains?
Any open area of land with vegetation is susceptible to a fire.Living in such an area is wonderful, but you need to be prepared for the possibility of a wildfire.
If you live in a Wildfire Area, contact your Local Fire Department, Department of Forestry, Emergency Management Office, City Hall, Building Department or other Government agency for the laws in your local area pertaining to building codes, weed abatement and fire protection measures.
What to do Before a WildfireThere are several things you can do to prepare for the eventuality of a wildfire.
♦ Learn about the History of Wildfires in your area. Check with your local Fire Department or Department of Forestry.
♦ Learn about your Community's plan to respond to a fire.
♦ Are the roads leading to your property clearly marked?
♦ Are the roads leading to your property wide enough for fire vehicles, bull dozers, and other equipment to reach your home?
♦ Is your address number clearly visible from the road, especially if you live down a long driveway?
♦ During your Family Disaster Plan meeting, discuss the possibility of evacuation. Have several route if possible. Be ready to evacuate if told to do so. Have your Disaster Supplies, Emergency Kits and First Aid Kits ready to go. Remember your elderly or disabled family members as well as your pets.
Protecting Your Home, Creating Safety Zones
All vegetation should be considered fuel for a fire. Some plants are more flammable than others. Check with your local Fire Department, Forestry Department, a licensed horticulturist, or your local Master Gardner education program to learn more about this, and native plant replacement. The more distance you have between your home and any vegetation, the greater protection you have.
♦ Create a "Clear Zone" or "Safety Zone" around your home and any out buildings on your property. Clear at least 30 feet , keeping vegetation to a minimum. Consider clearing up to 100 feet if you live on a hill or slope, or near a wooded area.
♦ Swimming pools and cement patio space can be considered part of the Clear Zone. Wooden decks and patios do not count, as they can burn.
♦ Clear all flammable vegetation such as leaves, branches and twigs from the zone.
♦ Avoid using mulch made from bark or wood chips.
♦ Remove any vines growing on the walls of your home. Trim or move plants away from the side of your home.
♦ Remove leaves and debris from under any structures such as porches or balconies.
♦ Thin a 15 foot space between the crowns of trees, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
♦ Remove or trim trees or shrubs that have dead branches at the base of the plants. This dead material acts as a ladder for the fire to consume the rest of the plant.
♦ Prune shrubs and tree branches that are within 15 feet of chimneys and stovepipes.
♦ Request the power companies to clear brush and tree limbs away from power lines.
♦ Mow your grass on a regular basis. Keep the grass at a maximum of 2 inches.
♦ Consider replacing highly flammable vegetation such as pine, eucalyptus, juniper, and fir trees with less flammable types such as hardwoods.
♦ Stack any firewood at least 100 feet from the house or outbuildings, and uphill if possible.
♦ Clear a 10 to 15 foot area around the barbecue or gas grill with a propane tank. Place a quarter inch non flammable mesh screen over the grill. Avoid barbecuing during times of high risk, such as when it is breezy or windy.
♦ Store combustible or flammable materials such as propane or lighter fluid in safety approved containers. Store them away from the house. If storing them in the garage, do not put them close to any electrical equipment, such as the water heater or washer and dryer.
♦ For outdoor fire pits and fireplaces, as well as the barbecue, place any hot ashes in a metal bucket filled with water. Leave the bucket with hot ash and water overnight, away from any structures or brush, to cool. Make sure the water and ash are completely cooled down before disposing of the content.
Building or Remodeling Your Home
If you live in an area highly susceptible to wildfires, consider the following suggestions.
If building a new home...
♦ Choose your location wisely. Canyon and slope areas increase the risk of exposure to wildfires. Use fire resistant materials in all phases of construction, inside and out.
♦ Design and landscape your new home with Fire Safety in mind when making all decisions. Always choose materials that will help contain a fire rather than fuel a fire.
♦ Install electrical, telephone, and cable lines underground.
If building or remodeling...
♦ Choose safety glass for windows and sliding doors. Consider dual or triple pane thermal glass with shatter resistant glazing like tempered glass or wire glass. Windows allow radiated heat to pass through them and ignite combustible materials in your home. The larger the window area the greater the vulnerability risk. To help shield windows install non combustible awnings.
♦ Treat any wooden siding with UL (Underwriter's Laboratories) approved fire retardant chemicals, but be aware this treatment and protection are not permanent, and will need to be redone every so often. Consider residing your home using fire resistant materials such as stucco, cement shingles, concrete and rocks, brick or metal siding.
♦ Your roof is the most vulnerable area in a wildfire. Embers and flaming material can travel great distances, land on your roof and start a new fires. Do not use roofing such as wood, shake and shingle. Do use fire resistant materials such as fiberglass shingles, slate, metal, clay, concrete tile, or single ply membranes.
♦ When building or remodeling your chimney, make sure the top of the chimney is at least two feet taller than any obstruction within 10 feet of it. To prevent embers from escaping through the top, install spark arrestors made from 12 gage welded or woven wire mesh screen with half inch openings. Also install them on stove pipes and vents for fuel burning heaters.
♦ Cover your vents for the attic, soffets, ground vents, louver vents or any other opening which could allow embers or flaming debris to enter. Use quarter inch mesh screen with corrosion resistant wire.
♦ If building a porch or sun deck, try to build it on the ground with no space beneath it. Empty space underneath a porch or deck can trap heat.
♦ If you do build an elevated structure, keep the area underneath the overhang clear of debris at all times. If using wooden stilts, enclose them in a non combustible material. Hang a half inch mesh screen from the bottom of the overhang to the ground. This will keep debris from gathering and becoming fuel for a fire.
♦ Overhangs can ignite easily from flying embers. Heat and fire will be trapped underneath. Keep the space free of vegetation. Do not use the area for storage, since the fire hazard is increased.
Maintaining Your Home
♦ Clean out your gutters on a regular basis.
♦ Clean off your roof on a regular basis.
♦ Inspect your chimney twice a year. Clean it at least once a year. Make sure your chimney and stove pipes have a spark arrester.
♦ Keep a metal ladder handy that will reach the roof level.
♦ Consider installing fire resistant shutters.
♦ Keep tools handy that could be used to help fight a fire, such as a bucket, shovel, ax, a hand saw or chain saw.
♦ Keep brush cleared and debris away from the house.
♦ Keep your hoses in good working order.
♦ Keep a fire extinguishers handy, and in good working order. Know how to use them. Check with your local Fire Department on what type to get, and where to keep them.
♦ Have working smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors. Test them every month and change the batteries twice a year. Check with your local Fire Department for how many you should have for the size of your house, and where to place them.
♦ Install heavy fire resistant drapes on your windows.
Water Needs and Uses in a Wildfire
Since water is one of the major tools used in a fire, consider some of the following. Remember to discuss these when making your Disaster Plan.
♦ If you have a pool, have a pool pump or water pump available. Have a generator available to pump the water should the power go out. (see Generators for safety tips.)
♦ If possible, have an outside water source such as a pool, a pond, a cistern or a well.
♦ Have hoses on all sides of the house. Install freeze proof exterior water faucets if necessary. If there are outbuildings, make sure the hoses can reach, or install new outlets.
♦ Have the heavy duty hoses, 50 feet or longer (100 foot hoses are better) with spray nozzle attachments near each water faucet. Check the hoses at least twice a year for holes, rips or leaks.
♦ If you have a barbecue , fire pit or outdoor fireplace, make sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby. Know how to use it properly.
What to do When There is a Wildfire
(Be Ready for an Emergency Evacuation)
♦ If you know a fire has started in your area, check the news reports for information. If the power goes out, listen to your battery operated radio. Listen for updates and evacuation orders.
♦ Gather the family and put your Disaster Plan into action. Gather the pets in one room.
Have your car backed into the garage or driveway. If told to evacuate, this will save time. If you have an electric garage door, put it into the manual operating mood so you are able to open it. Consider leaving your keys in the ignition so you know right where they are if you must evacuate. Keep the car windows closed to keep out the smoke. Close the garage door and windows. Load the car with your important papers. If you have not yet gotten your Disaster Supplies, Emergency Kits and First Aid Kits for your car, have the ones for your home ready to take in the car.
If you have time...Inside the home
♦ Close all the windows and doors in your home.
♦ Close vents, blinds, and heavy drapes. Remove any lightweight curtains.
♦ Close the fireplace screen, but open the damper.
♦ Move flammable furniture into the center of the room, away from windows or sliding glass doors.
♦ Turn on a light or have battery operated lights in each room. This will increase visibility in heavy smoke.
♦ Turn off the pilot light on your stove and heating system, and any others you may have.
♦ Try and arrange temporary housing at a relative's or friend's house outside the area. Do Not spend too much time on the phone. If you need to leave, you can always make calls later. If evacuated, there will be a shelter available.
If you have time...Outside the home
♦ Connect your hoses to the faucets. Firemen can use these.
♦ Wet down the area around your home. Place a sprinkler on your roof with the water on. Check with your local Fire Department for advise on this. They can tell you the best method and what to do in your area depending on the availability and number of fire hydrants or water sources, water pressure, etc.
♦ Have a metal ladder in plain site for the firemen to use.
Turn off all propane tanks.
Seal attic and ground vents with pre cut plywood or commercial seals.
Take any flammable or combustible outdoor furniture inside the house or the garage.
Set out the potable gas powered pump by your swimming pool or pond. This can also be used b the firemen.
Set out your fire tools: your shovels, saws, ax, etc.
If Told to Evacuate, Do Evacuate Immediately
♦ Gather everyone quickly, including the animals all gathered in one room, and go together to the car. You should wear protective clothing: sturdy shoes, cotton or wool clothes (since these materials do not melt in heat), long sleeved shirt and long pants (to protect you from flying sparks or embers), sturdy work gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
♦ Take the route told to you by the authorities. Fire moves quickly and erratically, so do not take shortcuts which will put you in danger.
Listen to the car radio for updates. Watch for changes in wind speed and smoke.
♦ Lock your home. Place a sign on the door to let the Fire Department know you have evacuated.
♦ Always follow the directions of local authorities in an emergency evacuation. Go where you are told, usually the shelter, and go the way you are told to go.
♦ Your first priority is your safety. If you maintain your safety, you will be able to help your family and loved ones stay safe.
♦ Do not become another victim.