Chief Concerns: Preparedness & Readiness for a Wildfire — Part II

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Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department

In Part I, we discussed Santa Ana Winds and how winds significantly enable wildfire spread. Riverside County clearly witnessed wind-driven fires this September and October. With the Canyon #1 and Canyon #2 fires and the Wildomar Fire that started on Oct. 26, we saw how quickly and destructively wildfires can wreak havoc on communities and how communities can also be prepared for a wildfire.

In Part II, we will discuss how you, as the homeowner, can best prepare and be ready for a wildfire. Following www.readyforwildfire.org provides you a simply understood and easily implemented home program to be ready for a wildfire.

The website emphasizes three basic preparedness steps: 1) plan, 2) know and 3) act. We will discuss these three points and add information about evacuation tips and the famous Ready! Set! Go! method to be ready to respond to the threat or the actuality of wildfire.

Cal Fire has developed and offers a free app that will best get you Ready for Wildfire. The app is available at: www.readyforwildfire.org/Ready-for-Wildfire-App/. The app will work on both smart phones and iPhones. The same website also provides, as does the app, features like checklists with steps for:

• Taking charge of your defensible space

• Hardening your home

• Preparing for bark beetle attack

• Creating an evacuation and family communications plan

• Assembling an emergency supply kit

• Evacuating early

The Cal Fire app will allow you to customize your desired information to get alerts when a wildfire is reported in your chosen zip code or within 30 miles of you. You can follow active wildfires that may be burning throughout California. Fire information will include location, size and containment percentage along with other critically important information. Instructions are provided on how to sign up for Wildfire Alerts.

Under the Know Web Page, www.readyforwildfire.org/102-million-dead-trees/, you will find valuable information pertaining to the terrible impact of the drought on our forests. Even though the drought mortality is currently located in the Central and Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, many of the San Jacinto-Santa Rosa mountains residents will remember the drought we lived through during the last decade. Thousands of trees were killed in our mountains.

In preparing for wildfire, we must be ready to act. The Ready for Wildfire website for Act is found at www.readyforwildfire.org/Defensible-Space/.

Of critical importance is the statutory requirement to Maintain Defensible Space. The statutory authority is found in the California Public Resources Code Section 4291. Specific statutory verbiage may be found at

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=4291.&lawCode=PRC.

Editor’s note: Next week, Hawkins will get into the details of preparing for wildfire.

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. He served as the Cal Fire IC at the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego County. The Cedar Fire remains the largest and most destructive in California history.

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