Are you confused about what to do if a wildfire heads your way? You hear about people who refuse to leave their homes during evacuations — and die. Then you hear about people who do leave their homes but could have saved them by staying home and putting out embers that get caught in their eaves. As 2019 California Mother of the Year, I’ve been blogging about fire prevention for 2 seasons and thought I understood everything there was to know about fires. I was wrong.
I just met with Tony Akin, fire inspector, and Marco Mack, deputy fire marshal, last week to make sure my house and acreage were safe from wildfires. We had just completed our weed whacking and limbing of trees to clear 100 feet from our home. Because we’re located on a steep hillside in a gulch, the way a fire would approach our house is different than how it might approach our neighbor’s house on the other side of the hill. They recommended that I remove 3 trees that were next to the house and the trumpet vines that I had meticulously groomed up the wrought iron railing to my front door.
Apparently, these 3 trees and the trumpet vines would light up and create a direct line of fire to my front door! Who knew? I’m chain sawing the trees and removing the vines next week! Then I learned that if I replaced my ¼” attic screens with 1/8” screens, they could prevent embers from flying into my attic and starting a house fire. New 1/8” screens are going in next week too! They told me that those little embers could lodge themselves in the tiny spaces around our fascia boards. By just caulking around fascia boards, I could prevent an ember from destroying my house. Phew, I can do that!
To manage the risk of a fire approaching my home when it’s not safe to drive away, the Fire District recommends that I work with my neighbors to establish Safety Zones. This is an area that will provide a safe location for the type of fire intensity that is approaching my location. It would be protected from radiant heat, have no combustible vegetation, have hardened structures to prevent ignition, and be in the area that doesn’t support high-intensity fires. This safety zone will need to be updated each year to ensure that the location continues to be hardened and safe.
They recommended that I go across the road to the Locatelli Ranch because it is a proposed Safety Zone. There’s enough clearing there for many neighbors to be safe from high intensity wildfire. A Safety Zone is a good alternative when your evacuation route may not be safe including a drive down our one- and two-lane road, where your car is stopped at a bottleneck disaster like what happened in Paradise in 2018. Please work with your Fire Department to validate possible Safety Zone locations.
Residents in rural areas, like me, who might become trapped outside during evacuation or plan to escape to an outside Safety Zone, should prepare a go-bag with safety clothing that will resist burning embers and protect your hair and skin, and safety goggles to protect your eyes.
Every home has different problems and will encounter fire behavior in different ways. This is just my situation and what I can do to mitigate wildfires. You can contact your local fire inspector to give you free advice on how to protect your home and what to do if a wildfire approaches your home. If you live in Soquel/Capitola, call 831.316.3803 or email RSG@centralFPD.com; Aptos, call 831.316.3804 or email RSG@aptosfire.com. This was the most important meeting I’ve had about how to protect my family and home. You can also take a class at your community college on fire prevention or hire a certified contractor who can advise you and do the work needed. Take action now to protect your homes from wildfires!