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Cal Fire reminds all to be prepared for upcoming wildfire season

With state officials and climatologists saying hotter than average temperatures in Southern California could lead to an active wildfire season, CalFire is reminding residents to be prepared for this wildfire season.

"Fires are mostly caused by the human factor," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Robert Carvalho told the San Francisco Chronicle. "For example, if a fire starts in someone's backyard, it's likely their lawn mower blade hit a rock and struck a spark."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 2023 was the planet's warmest year on record, coming in 2.12 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.

In California, the state overall was just 0.8 degrees above the 1991-2020 average in 2023 with some areas even reporting near- to below-average temperatures.

"In 2024 there is a one-in-three chance that temperatures will be warmer even than 2023 and a 99% chance that 2024 will rank among the five warmest years on record.," NOAA said, adding the California was expected to "be in line" with that projection and what that could mean for many Californians is a high likelihood of wildfire activity.

"A wildfire can come without warning and spread quickly, leaving you little time to get to safety," Joselito Garcia-Ruiz, Regional Disaster Program officer for the Red Cross Los Angeles Region, said. "Talk with your family about wildfires, how to prevent them and what to do if one occurs. Put together a family disaster kit. Make a plan and practice it."

According to CalFire's Wildfire preparedness webpage, http://www.fire.ca.gov/prepare, families should be prepared for wildfire by using their three-step plan, Get Ready, Get Set, Be Ready to Go.

Get ready

Being ready for wildfire starts with maintaining an adequate defensible space and by hardening your home by using fire resistant building materials, CalFire said.

"Home Hardening means using ignition-resistant materials on and around your home to help it withstand flying embers and radiant heat," CalFire said. "Defensible Space is the buffer created by removing dead plants, grass and weeds to help keep wildfire away from your home."

It takes a combination of Home Hardening and Defensible Space to give your house the best chance of surviving a wildfire.

Get set

Get Set includes creating a plan with your family to evacuate should a wildfire strike. Talk with members of your household about what to do during emergencies. Plan what to do in case everyone is separated and choose two places to meet – one right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency and another outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate. Be sure to share that plan with others.

Building an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you if you must evacuate is an important part of this step, according to CalFire. Include items such as water, nonperishable food, a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-powered radio, first-aid kit and medications. Be sure to also include a cloth face covering for everyone in your household who can wear one safely.

Be ready to go

"Give your household the best chance of surviving a wildfire by being ready to go and evacuating early," CalFire said. "Being ready to go also means knowing when to evacuate and what to do if you become trapped."

According to CalFire, before evacuation becomes necessary, in addition to creating a plan and building an emergency kit, all California residents can sign up for text alerts about wildfires in the area they live by visiting https://incidents.readyforwildfire.org. Residents should learn their community's emergency response plan, evacuation orders and evacuation centers, CalFire said.

When immediate evacuation is necessary those affected should review their evacuation plan checklist, ensure their emergency supply kit is in their vehicle, and locate all pets (it's a good idea to have a "go bag" for pets as well).

When outside cover-up to protect against heat and flying embers. Wear long pants, a long sleeve shirt, heavy shoes/boots, cap, dry bandanna for face cover, goggles or glasses. 100% cotton is preferable, CalFire said.

If there is time, residents can assist the fire department by bringing flammable items such as patio furniture, toys, doormats, and trash bins inside or by placing them in their swimming pool, shutting off propane tanks, moving grills and other propane appliances away from the house and attaching garden hoses to outside taps for firefighter use.

Residents should also turn on exterior lights to make their homes visible in smoky or dark conditions, have a ladder handy for firefighter roof access and seal attic and ground vents with plywood or commercial seals.

Don't forget to check with neighbors to ensure they are prepared as well.

A few last minute notes

Remember that a wildfire can spread quickly, leaving those in its path little time to get to safety. CalFire said that residents near a fire should always be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice and obey all evacuation orders from officials.

Other tips include backing the car into the garage or parking it outside facing the direction of the evacuation route, confining pets to a single room so they can be found quickly should the need to evacuate arise and limit exposure to smoke and dust by keeping windows and doors closed.

When trapped outdoors during a fire crouch in a pond, river or pool. If there is no body of water, those trapped in a fire should look for shelter in a clear area or in a bed of rocks. Those trapped should lie flat, face down and cover their bodies with soil. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching lungs or inhaling smoke. The Red Cross also says not to put wet clothing or bandanas over your mouth or nose as moist air can cause more damage to the airway than dry air at the same temperature.

Never return home until officials say it is safe to do so.

Upon returning home, inspect the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers and check the home for embers that could cause fires; wildfires may have left embers that could reignite. Look for signs of a fire including smoke or sparks.

Other safety tips include avoiding downed power lines, poles and wires, keeping animals on a leash so owners have direct control over them to avoid any hot spots or hidden embers that could burn them. Also, wet down any debris to minimize breathing in dust particles. Be sure to wear leather gloves and shoes with heavy soles when entering an area that has been burned and throw out any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.

For more information on emergency preparedness and wildfire safety, including checklists and tips on building your evacuation plan, visit https://readyforwildfire.org.

 

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