Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Learning the art of firescaping and home fire protection Part III

Making your home and community safer and surviving a wildfire is a process that will be well worth the effort to be prepared.

Some projects can be done in a weekend or two, although it is essential to remember that routine maintenance must be a part of any long-term plan to reduce your home's vulnerability from wildfires.

Wildfires can be challenging to control, and what is controllable is how you prepare your home and surroundings before fire threatens.

A valuable link between survival and destruction is the steps one can take to reduce the chance of a fire's initial ignition around your home.

Here are some critical areas to address and items to address.

Access zone: the access zone is the area that helps emergency crews and firefighters to locate and arrive at your home promptly.

· Check and make sure the streets signs at each intersection leading to your address are visible and clear of overgrown vegetation.

· Clear away any plants that could be blocking your home address.

· Equip automatic gates with approved emergency key-operated switches that override all command functions so the gate can be operated by emergency personnel to enter your property.

· Have your driveway at least 16 feet wide and 13.6 feet high and clear of vegetation so emergency vehicles can enter safely.

Defensible space: This is the area around your home where vegetation should be continuously managed and tailored to reduce fire risk at all times. See Part II for more information.

Interior zone: this is the inside your home, and these are many fire safety tips that will help you protect the interior of your home.

· Keep your fireplace clean from excessive creosote buildup on the chimney's interior walls.

· Ensure your chimney flue has a spark-arrester, so sparks are not allowed to fly upward and outside.

· Keep flammable materials at least three feet away from wood stoves and fireplaces.

· Use metal, mesh, or glass screening in front of your fireplace opening.

· Light a fire in your fireplace correctly, and never start a fire with flammable liquids or gasoline.

· Dispose of all fireplace ashes in a metal container and wait a minimum of five days before transferring them to another container.

· Stack firewood at least 50 feet away from your home and clear combustible vegetation within 10 feet of the firewood pile. Do not stack firewood in an uphill location from your home, for if burning, the logs can fall apart and roll downhill and ignite your home.

· Smoke alarms are inexpensive devices that save many lives and should be placed in every bedroom and commons areas of your home.

· Test each smoke alarm once a month to ensure it is working and replace batteries once a year. I do it every fall when I reset our clocks in the home to fall backward.

· A typical smoke detector unit can last about 8-10 years, so clean smoke detectors with a vacuum and dust debris from its opening.

· Own and maintain fire extinguishers to quickly put our small fires. Check them annually and recharge after each use. Many come with a gauge to indicate their readiness and if fully charged.

· Do you have an interior fire sprinkler system, especially if your home is near the Wildland-Urban Interface or other high-risk fire areas?

Structure zone:

· Inspect your roof and replace it when needed for many roof coverings used in residential construction should be replaced every 20-40 years.

· Keep roofs and gutters free of fallen debris such as needles, leaves and branches. A roof fire can enter your attic, ignite the flammable insulation materials, and start the house burning quickly.

· Install gutter guards to reduce the frequency of cleaning. Debris, like leaves, accumulates in gutters and allows flying sparks to ignite a roof fire.

· Install small mesh screen coverings over your roof vents so embers will not enter into the attic area.

· Cover the undersides of your eaves with fire-resistant material to box them in, which will protect the eave area and slow a roof fire.

· Attached wooden decks to the home, when on fire, can lead to the house catching fire. Use at least 1.5-inch boards in its construction. Thinner boards ignite easier, release heat faster, and pose a higher hazard to adjacent windows and wall sidings.

· Remove burnable furnishings off the deck if a fire is approaching.

· Use gravel mulch under a raised deck to prevent vegetation growth, which can be a fire problem under wooden decks.

· Do not store combustible materials under a wooden deck.

· Use two-pane glass windows in the construction of your home. They are an added protection with the outer pane serving as a thermal shield for the inner pane. Tempered glass is more substantial than regular annealed glass.

· Do not have combustible wooden structures, such as storage sheds and gazebos or playhouses close to the home; they should be at least 30 feet or more away from the main house.

· A wooden fence attached to a home, if it catches on fire, can act as a wick, leading fire to the house.

· Install a portable sprinkler system on top of the house roof and attach it to a garden hose if a fire approaches your property.

· The water in a pool can be used as a great source to help put out a house fire. You can drop a portable pump hose into the pool, along with a gas-generator, and utilize that tremendous amount of water to perhaps save your home.

Planning & evacuation: Evacuation and preparedness safety tips are also needed for all your animals.

· Take care of your pets and animals of all kinds with a list of evacuation items for them and a safe place to take them for a while.

· Plan transportation for larger livestock like horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, llamas, and others if you have them.

· Please make sure you have food for them in adequate supply along with water, beddings and essentials for their comfort.

· Have a plan with friends and neighbors to help get animals loaded and transported to a holding shelter for a while.

Personal preparedness:

· Be careful with all types of candles, especially with holiday décor.

· Prioritize items in order of importance with a place to go if you must evacuate, along with phone numbers for family members to contact you.

· A three-day emergency backpack with water, canned food, toiletries, a change of clothing, and if you have to evacuate your home,

· Sleeping bags, blankets, and a first aid kit with medications for all are vital.

· Essential documents include birth and marriage certificates, vaccination records, financial documents, passport, insurance papers, and your address book.

· Don't forget those photo albums, which mean so much to you and your family, for years of memories are tucked into those pages.

· Perhaps now is the time to digitize all those photos and have on a few savable disks or flash drives.

· Get a local emergency app on your phone to stay informed as communication is vital for all parties involved.

· Special items for infants, the elderly, or the disabled are of prime concern.

· Don't forget an extra pair of reading glasses and sunglasses as well.

· Battery-powered flashlight and extra batteries, a radio, a phone charger.

· Turn off outdoor fuel tanks if connected to the home before evacuation.

· Don't forget games, toys, books or other entertainment items for the children to pass the time while away.

· And by all means, keep your spirits positive and cheerful and count your blessings.

So get that to-go bag ready and have your list available at hand so that in a moment of panic and stress, you don't forget something.

I hope I have brought some valuable information to you and that you take care of some of these items while learning a little bit about the art of firescaping.

Roger Boddaert is a landscape design horticulturist and certified arborist who can help with a property assessment in caring for your property and home. He can be reached at 760-728-4297.


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