Wildfire lessons

What to do now to protect your home and garden

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CLEAN UP YOUR YARD

Situate firewood and propane tanks at least 30 feet from the house. Move plastic trash cans away from homes and wood fences; melted ones ignited adjacent structures in the recent fires. Keep gutters clear of dead leaves and other debris.

MAKE YOUR HOME FIRE-RESISTANT

Use metal, concrete, clay tile, or fiber cement-shake roofing in fire-prone areas. "Wood-shake roofs and adjacent wildland are an explosive combination," says Jarman of San Diego Fire-Rescue. The wind during the Cedar Fire was strong enough at times to carry burning 2-by-4s. When embers landed on wood shake, the roofs ignited.

Homeowners in Scripps Ranch agree. "There's not a wood-shake home left in our tract (Phase I of Loire Valley)," says Ken Smith. His home was spared; it has a steel roof. Other things you can do:

  • Protect your attic. To keep embers out, box in the eaves and cover attic vents with wire mesh that has holes no larger than 1/4 inch wide.
  • Replace single-pane windows with double- or triple-pane windows. One of the most frightening aspects of the recent fires is the way homes exploded without a flame touching them; radiant heat made windows so hot that curtains, blinds, or furniture next to them ignited.

TEAM UP WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS

Lytle Creek, a mountain community in San Bernardino County, is a good example of neighbors uniting to protect their homes. The community formed a local chapter of the Fire Safe Council, and together its members cleared tons of brush from around their homes before fire season. Because of their efforts, firefighters were able to save most Lytle Creek homes.

BE PREPARED

People living in high fire-hazard areas need evacuation plans. "Don't rely on thinking calmly," warns Scripps Ranch homeowner Laurie Sanders-Cannon. By the time the evacuation notice finally comes, you may have only minutes to make decisions.

Decide on an evacuation route, and establish an emergency meeting place outside the home where family members can reunite. Make copies of legal documents and store them off-site.

 

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