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

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By John R. Hawkins

Fire Chief & Operational Area Fire & Rescue Coordinator & William Weiser, Division Chief

Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department

Decks: Surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant,* non-combustible or other approved materials. Ensure that all combustible items are removed from underneath your deck.

Rain gutters: Screen or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris.

Patio cover: Use the same ignition-resistant* materials for patio coverings as a roof.

Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-combustible screen. Use metal screen material with openings no smaller than 3/8-inch and no larger than 1/2-inch to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.

In the garage, you should have a fire extinguisher and tools such as a shovel, rake, bucket and hoe available for fire emergencies.

• Install weather stripping around and under the garage door to prevent embers from blowing in.

• Store all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.

Fences: Consider using ignition-resistant* or non- combustible fence materials to protect your home during a wildfire.

Driveways and access roads: Driveways should be built and maintained in accordance with state and local codes to allow fire and emergency vehicles to reach your home. Consider maintaining access roads with a minimum of 10 feet of clearance on either side, allowing for two-way traffic.

• Ensure that all gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate emergency equipment.

• Trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass.

Address: Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road.

Water supply: Consider having multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property. If you have a pool or well, consider getting a pump.

Useful links:

Fire Information Engine, Homeowner Wildfire Assessment: http://firecenter.berkeley.edu/homeassessment/home_assess_intro.html

University of California, Homeowner’s Wildfire Mitigation Guide: http://ucanr.edu/sites/Wildfire/

*Ignition-resistant building materials are those that resist ignition or sustained burning when exposed to embers and small flames from wildfires. Examples of ignition-resistant materials include non-combustible materials that don’t burn, exterior-grade fire-retardant-treated wood lumber, fire-retardant-treated wood shakes and shingles listed by the state fire marshal and any material that has been tested in accordance with SFM Standard 12-7A-5.

Ready! Set! Go! is an easily understood, sequential-step checklist for your response to a wildfire. The first part of this Part II article clearly discussed Ready! Now, we discuss Set! and Go! next week. These last two components are easily understood and remembered. Both are critically important to your survival.

Set! means that when you first learn of a wildfire, you become set. You get ready. You are like a sprinter or runner in the sprinter blocks ready to run a foot race. Remember: When immediate evacuation is imminent, follow these steps as soon as possible to get ready to Go!

1. Review your Evacuation Plan Checklist.

2. Ensure your emergency supply kit is in your vehicle.

3. Cover up to protect against heat and flying embers. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirt, heavy shoes/boots, cap, dry bandanna for face cover, goggles or glasses. 100 percent cotton is preferable.

4. Locate your pets and take them with you.

Editor’s note: Next week, Hawkins and Weiser detail steps of evacuating in a wildfire situation.

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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