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Resources to cover wildfire season: Tips for homeowners to prepare homes, evacuate
July 19, 2013 – During the last few months, Southern California has witnessed a number of damaging wildfires fueled by triple-digit temperatures, strong, gusty winds, and drought-like conditions. According to fire officials, the recent Mountain Fire southwest of Palm Springs has burned more than 20,000 acres, evacuated more than 6,000 residents and has destroyed several homes.
Wildfire safety experts from the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Firewise® Communities Program and the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ (IAFC) Ready, Set, Go! Program encourage residents to prepare their homes for a wildfire, maintain a situational awareness of the fire and evacuate if called to do so.
Steps outlined in IAFC’s Ready, Set, Go! wildfire readiness program, in partnership with NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program, address the three major phases of wildfire safety – preparation, situational awareness and survival. Important steps include:
Ready: Take personal responsibility and, whenever possible, prepare long before the threat of a wildfire so your home is ready in case of a fire. Create defensible space by clearing dry vegetation such as grass, leaves and branches away from your home. Replace or repair shingles or roof tiles that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration. Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home. Assemble emergency supplies and belongings in a safe spot. Make sure all residents within the home know planned escape routes.
Set: Get your family and home prepared at the onset of fire in your area. Gather family pets and have them prepared to evacuate. Pack your vehicle with emergency items including medication and personal identification. Stay aware of the latest news from local media and the local fire department for updated information on the fire. Be prepared to evacuate if called to do so.
Go: Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Leave early and stay away until your area has been cleared for return by local officials. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to best maneuver the wildfire and ensures your and your family’s safety.
Given the current level of wildfire activity in California, residents in high-risk areas should be prepared to be Ready, Set and Go!
Available wildfire experts:
- Molly Mowery, NFPA senior project manager, is responsible for the management of Fire Adapted Communities and international outreach. She also provides technical support on Firewise and related issues to communities, states and other wildfire safety advocates, and presents on planning and development-related topics.
- Michele Steinberg, NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program manager, is responsible for the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program and national outreach on wildfire safety. An experienced speaker and presenter, Steinberg has worked since 1989 in the areas of natural hazards and disaster safety marketing and outreach.
- Shawn Stokes, IAFC assistant director, National Programs, is responsible for IAFC’s direction on wildfire efforts and the Ready, Set, Go! Program. Stokes is also Operations Chief of the Dunn Loring Volunteer Fire Department, and an appointed Commissioner to the Fairfax County, Va., Volunteer Fire Commission.
- Faith Berry, NFPA’s southwest regional Firewise advisor, helped form 30 small Fire Safe Councils in San Diego County over the past several years where she integrated Firewise materials and concepts. She brings a range of experience to the Firewise position from firefighting to park management and grant-writing.
- Preparing residents to evacuate their home in the event of wildfire
- The magnitude of burned homes, property and natural resources in the U.S.
- How residents and communities can avoid falling victim
- How wildfire spreads and why we must adapt to living with wildfire
- Easy steps anyone can take to reduce the chances of wildfire damage
- Facts every resident should know about saving their property from wildfire
Tips for California residents to prepare their property:
- Obey outdoor burning bans. Don’t burn trash or debris when conditions are dry or windy.
- If camping or hunting, check local restrictions on campfires. Use an approved gas stove as an alternative for heating and cooking. If charcoal grills are permitted, use them only over fire proof surfaces such as asphalt or bare earth.
- Dispose of smoking materials properly. Extinguish them in an ashtray. Don’t throw them out your window.
- Avoid parking and idling in dry grass. Catalytic converters can get hot enough to ignite the grass.
- Keep water available when using welding equipment or cutting torches around grass and brush. A five-gallon bucket of water with a tote sack in it could prove valuable if sparks or hot pieces of metal catch nearby grass on fire.
- Avoid setting hot chainsaws or other gas-powered equipment in dry grass, which could ignite after coming into contact with hot mufflers.
- Remove flammable materials (propane tanks and firewood) within 3-5 feet of the home’s foundation. Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, door mats and potted plants in wooden containers either inside the house or as far away from the home, shed and garage as possible. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch the house, deck or porch.
- Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
- Limit vegetation surrounding the home’s perimeter, at least 30-100 feet, depending on the area’s wildfire risk. The Firewise Guide to Landscaping can help distinguish the best vegetation based on distance to the home or structure. Firewise landscaping and plants list are also available on the Firewise website.
Those interested in making a lasting change to their home can consider a Firewise construction approach, which means building with less-flammable materials for homes, decks, porches and fences. This includes using Class-A roofing materials such as asphalt shingles and metal, cement and concrete products. Double-paned or tempered glass windows also make a home more resistant to heat and flames.
Learn more about how to keep families safe and reduce homeowners’ risk for wildfire damage at www.Firewise.org. Additionally, complimentary brochures, booklets, pamphlets, videos and much more can be found on the information and resources page of the website and ordered online through NFPA’s online wildfire safety catalog.
About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. NFPA develops more than 300 codes and standards to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other hazards. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed at no cost at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.
The Firewise Communities Program encourages local solutions for safety by involving homeowners in taking individual responsibility for preparing their homes from the risk of wildfire. Firewise is a key component of the Fire Adapted Communities initiative –a collaborative approach that connects all those who play a role in wildfire education, planning and action with comprehensive resources to help reduce risk. The Firewise Communities Program and Fire Adapted Communities are sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association and USDA Forest Service.
About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide; our members are the world’s leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety policy. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for fire and emergency service leaders to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders.
About the Ready, Set, Go! Program
The Ready, Set, Go! Program utilizes firefighters to teach individuals who live in high risk wildfire areas and the wildland-urban-interface (WUI) how to best prepare themselves and their properties against fire threats. Ready, Set, Go! works in a complimentary and collaborative fashion with Firewise and other existing wildland fire public education efforts. It amplifies their messages to individuals to better achieve the common goal we all share in fire-adapted communities.
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