Ready for Wildfires!

Get Ready

Prepare a defensible space around your home by clearing brush, and dead plants, leaves, and low limbs on trees, and ladder fuels in a 100 foot radius and up to 6 feet high. Harden your home by using fire resistant building materials. You can replace flammable shingles with non-flammable shingles. Having fire resistant landscaping will also help to prevent fire from spreading into your yard.

I learned from a fire chief that even having flammable window coverings such as curtains or drapes inside the closed windows of your house can lead to fire, because the glass can get so hot from the radiant heat of a nearby fire that the curtains will combust!

Get Set

  1. Create a Wildfire Action Plan that includes evacuation planning for your home, family and pets. 
  2. Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for each person in your household.
  3. Fill-out a Family Communication Plan that includes important evacuation and contact information.

Make sure everybody in your home knows the plan. Designate an emergency meeting location in a safe location outside of the hazard area for keeping track of who is safe. Determine multiple escape routes and practice them often. Have an evacuation plan for pets and livestock. Designate an out of area family member opt friend as a point of contact for family members in case of separation. I would also recommend keeping a set of walkie talkies, fully charged at all times with a designated channel in case other forms of communication are down. A portable radio is also a necessity for news of the event. There is also Nixle which you can have on your phone among other related apps.

Have fire extinguishers ready and regularly primed. I would also recommend outdoor hoses for putting out embers if you are not in imminent danger or not yet required to evacuate. Have emergency shutoffs labeled and make sure everyone knows how to shut off the gas, water, and electric. I would also recommend making sure that everyone knows how to shut off the AC or at least change it to recirculate mode so it’s not pulling in smokey outdoor air during a fire.

Keep important info such as emergency contact numbers next to your phone and in your emergency supply kit. Keep an extra kit in each person’s car. Share your plan with your neighbors.

REMEMBER THE SIX “P’S”

Keep These Six “P’s” Ready In Case Immediate Evacuation Is Required:

  • People and pets
  • Papers, phone numbers, and important documents
  • Prescriptions, vitamins, and eyeglasses
  • Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
  • Personal computer hard drive and disks
  • “Plastic” (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash

Go

Have an evacuation plan. This involves everything above, plus the following checklists:

Home Evacuation Checklist – How to Prepare for Evacuation:

Inside the House

  • Shut all windows and doors, leaving them unlocked.
  • Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters.
  • Remove lightweight curtains.
  • Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors.
  • Shut off gas at the meter; turn off pilot lights.
  • Leave your lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions.
  • Shut off the air conditioning.

Outside

  • Gather up flammable items from the exterior of the house and bring them inside (patio furniture, children’s toys, door mats, trash cans, etc.) or place them in your pool.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Move propane BBQ appliances away from structures.
  • Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters. Fill water buckets and place them around the house.
  • Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running, they can affect critical water pressure.
  • Leave exterior lights on so your home is visible to firefighters in the smoke or darkness of night.
  • Put your Emergency Supply Kit in your vehicle.
  • Back your car into the driveway with vehicle loaded and all doors and windows closed. Carry your car keys with you.
  • Have a ladder available and place it at the corner of the house for firefighters to quickly access your roof.
  • Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
  • Patrol your property and monitor the fire situation. Don’t wait for an evacuation order if you feel threatened.
  • Check on neighbors and make sure they are preparing to leave.

Animals

  • Locate your pets and keep them nearby.
  • Prepare farm animals for transport and think about moving them to a safe location early.

Bark Beetles and California’s Tree Mortality Emergency

Bark Beetles are enjoying an extended active period each summer due to global warming. This has allowed them to extend their range and infest more forests than ever before. The droughts caused by climate change have also made trees weaker and more susceptible to infestation. This problem is a system that is gaining strength as more global warming perpetuates the cycle. The dead trees let behind create more fuel for wildfires and that further promotes the cycle.

Signs of Bark Beetle Infestation

Check your trees for signs of bark beetle infestation. Bark beetle activity starts on the bark surface and extends to the inner bark of twigs, branches or trunks. The following are signs that a tree may be infested by bark beetles:

In the Bark

  • Trees react by releasing pitch as their natural defense against bark beetle attack. This response from the tree will leave small white or reddish-brown pitch tubes on the outside of the bark. (Pitch tubes may resemble ½-¾ inch blobs of sap-like substance.)
  • A white pitch tube means the beetle was successfully repelled by the tree. If the pitch tube is reddish brown, most likely the beetle was successful in attacking the tree.
  • The pitch is accompanied by a sawdust-like substance, called frass, created by bark beetles and their larvae as they borethrough the bark.
  • Frass has accumulated in tree crevices and may have fallen to the ground, resembling very fine, reddish-brown coffee ground material at the base of the tree.
  • Bark flaking or holes in the bark caused by woodpeckers foraging for bark beetles are also a good indicator that bark beetles are present.
  • Removing bark sections will reveal holes created by bark beetles, as well as dead or degraded inner bark.

Leaves or Needles

  • The needles on conifer trees, like pines, begin to turn a reddish-brown color. Often the change begins at the top of the trees and moves down.
  • Some trees may slowly fade in color from green to brown.
  • Some trees may die within a few weeks of infestation, but may not show yellow-green, fading or red foliage for several months. Other types of trees may survive years before dying; by the time a tree appears dead, it cannot be saved.
  • Note: Unless trees are regularly monitored to detect bark beetle activity, any chemical spray application made after beetles have penetrated the  bark is likely to be too late and ineffective. If detected early, chemical treatment must target the adults by spraying the bark so that beetles are killed when they land on trees and attempt to bore into the bark to lay eggs.

What You Can Do

Landowners Assistance

California is experiencing epidemic levels of tree mortality. Dead and dying trees are a hazard to the public and to infrastructure. Many agencies and organizations are working together through the Tree Mortality Task Force  to help address and remove dead trees that pose a direct threat to public safety or critical infrastructure. In total over 500,000 dead trees have been removed and more projects across the high-hazard areas are in the works. Homeowners may be able to get assistance to remove dead trees or reforest their property based on their situation and location.

Reforestation: Interested in replanting trees, but have questions or concerns?

Grants: Find out if there are grants available that your organization or you qualify for?

Insurance: Learn more about tree mortality and insurance

Counties: Find resources based on where you live

Utilities and Infrastructure: Do you have dead trees on your property that would impact Utilities and Infrastructure if they fell?

Returning Home After a Wildfire

Coming home after a wildfire can be difficult. The damage is often unknown until the homeowner returns days or weeks later. Before returning home ALWAYS check with officials before attempting to return to your home. Once home check for the following:

Check grounds for hot spots, smoldering stumps, and vegetation.

Check the roof and exterior areas for sparks or embers.

Check the attic and throughout your house for any hidden burning sparks or embers.

Check for fire damage to your home, turn off all appliances and make sure the meter is not damaged before turning on the main circuit breaker.

Check the well or pump-house to ensure it is in working order.

Contact 911 if any danger is perceived.

Consult local experts on the best way to restore and plant your land with fire-safe landscaping.

Find out more about what to do Before, During and After a Wildfire  and when Returning Home After a Wildfire. 

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