Are YOU Ready for a Wildfire?
Wildfire season is upon us. It may not seem like it with the amount rain we received this winter and spring. But all that rain led to an abundant growth in vegetation, which in hot, dry temperatures, becomes the perfect fuel for fires.
Maintain defensible space
To prepare for fire season, San Diego residents can maintain a defensible space around their home. Ensure that you have a minimum of 100 feet of defensible space with no touching or overhanging tree branches on your roof. The point is to reduce the likelihood that a burning ember could land on your building structure and catch your home on fire. It is important to remove any dead or dying trees, plants or leaves around your home and yard that could spread fire. The Fire Safe Council of San Diego is offering no-cost chipping and defensible space services to help homeowners remove excess dry brush and reduce wildfire risk.
Install and maintain smoke alarms
Another way to prepare for wildfire safety is to install a smoke alarm in your home. “You are 50% more likely to survive a home fire if you have a working smoke alarm in your house,” said Melissa Altman, regional preparedness manager for the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties.
The Fire Authority, American Red Cross, and Fire Safe Council will install smoke alarms for unincorporated San Diego County residents who have mobility or financial constraints. In rural areas, the Fire Authority may provide a combination of carbon monoxide/smoke alarm with a 10-year lithium battery. The firefighters even install the alarms themselves if they have the time.
To find out if you are qualified for the program, contact the Burn Institute at 1-858-541-2277 or sign up for a free smoke alarm installation at www.soundthealarm.org/sandiego.
Establish a family disaster plan
San Diego County residents can also take additional steps to prepare themselves, their families, pets, and homes for wildfires and emergencies by creating or updating a family disaster plan. Everyone in the home should understand what the family disaster plan is and have prepared an evacuation bag to grab in case residents only have less than 15 minutes to go with emergency supplies for themselves and each person (and pet) in their household to survive on for three days or more.
If possible, reach out to family members, especially elderly ones, and review your plans and supplies with them for your own peace of mind.
County Efforts to Enhance Wildfire Preparedness
Wildfires are the most prevalent and costly threat to the region. In the last decade, two major wildfires burned more than 300,000 acres, causing approximately $2 billion in damages. The County Office of Emergency Services (OES), with approval from County of San Diego Board of Supervisors, took important steps over the course of this year to make our region better prepared for wildfires.
On September 10th, OES established a County Resilience Program focused on wildfire prevention, response, and recovery. The Resilience report provides 16 objectives and 50 specific tasks to reduce wildfire risk and strengthen community resilience in the unincorporated areas. “There’s no question about it, we are better prepared now than we’ve ever been before, but what this (resilience) report does is, we’re stepping it up to a whole new level. The report represents the most in-depth, comprehensive wildfire analysis the County of San Diego has ever undertaken,” stated County Supervisor Chairwoman Dianne Jacob.
In late August, OES in partnership with law enforcement officials prepared a School Protection and Evacuation Plan to help schools protect life, property, and critical infrastructure at the site in advance of a wildfire. School administrators should work with local fire and law enforcement to create a plan tailored for their school.
With over 600,000 residents in unincorporated areas and nearly 60,000 homes in San Diego County at high risk of wildfire threat, OES prepared a plan to reduce wildfire loss in high fire risk areas. The Fire Authority will assist up to 20,000 homeowners with defensible space fire protection; require vents in new construction for better flame and ember resistance; execute a pre-fire plan for high-risk neighborhoods; and improve vegetation management and emergency planning.
To learn more, visit ReadySanDiego.org.