Chief Concerns: We Want to Save Your House From Fire — Please Help Us

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By John R. Hawkins

Fire Chief

Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department

A major wildfire is burning below the ridge and above Hemet. You wonder if the fire will reach your house. Then, your mind wanders to your own personal responsibility. You question what will you do if the fire reaches your house. How will your house survive? Will it survive? What have you done to prepare your house to survive?

Creating clearance around your house, or what is termed “Defensible Space,” will make a difference when firefighters come to defend your residence from wildfire. The clearance will reduce the threat of the fire igniting your residence, and destroying your property and private, loved possessions.

Please read along for some valuable ideas on why you should be prepared and provide clearance around your buildings.

Defensible Space means the area adjacent to a structure or dwelling where wildfire prevention or protection practices are implemented to provide defense from an approaching wildfire or to minimize the spread of a structure fire to wildlands or surrounding areas (California Government Code 51177).

It does not mean removing all vegetation from around a home or creating a bare ring of earth. But it does mean providing clearance for fuels that can carry fire. Cal Fire has been conducting D-Space inspections for more than 60 years. And, the inspection effort has made a difference.

About D-Space inspections, Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott recently shared his thoughts about these inspections with his field commanders:

“Defensible Space is essential to improve a home’s chance of surviving a wildfire … Public Resources Code 4119, which gives Cal Fire (personnel) the authority to perform these inspections, was originally intended to help prevent a structure fire from extending into the adjacent vegetation and surrounding wildland areas.

Over the years, the focus has changed to help ensure that structures in wildland areas have sufficient clearance for firefighter and public safety, and to ensure the structures have the best possible chance of survivability when exposed to unwanted and destructive wildfires … Defensible Space provides significant, positive and direct impact on community and firefighter safety.”

Defensible Space will:

• Provide firefighters the opportunity to effectively defend your residence

• Signal firefighters your residence may be defensible

• Increase the odds your home may survive on its own if firefighting sources are overwhelmed

• Give you time to safely evacuate

More on this subject next week.

John Hawkins is the fire chief for the Cal Fire Riverside Unit and Riverside County Fire Department. He is entering his 54th year with Cal Fire and has served as the fire chief for going on 11 years. Chief Hawkins values leadership, fire and life safety and community involvement. He has been involved with the Riverside County Mountain Area Fire Safety Task Force since 2004. 

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