From the President
Michael S. Williams
“San Diego County Sheriff’s Commander, Mike Barnett told reporters that the department has received numerous calls for help from residents who received the notices but decided to stay behind.
‘When we ask you to evacuate,’ he said, ‘it’s important you do so.’”
“2 arrested in Escondido on suspicion of trying to start fire”
Los Angeles Times
May 15, 2014
The California wildland fire season is a year around phenomenon, so don’t be fooled, there is no shortage of fuel ready to burn throughout Santa Barbara.
The recent Lompoc fire and fires in San Diego have proven that early evacuations are critical in preventing injuries and the protection of property by responding firefighters.
With so much to lose, have you and your family developed an evacuation plan? Waiting until you need a plan is foolish.
The Ready! Set! Go! program has been adopted by all Santa Barbara County fire agencies. It is a uniformed message, having a plan, being prepared and evacuating prior to being impacted by a wildfire saves lives, prevents injuries and increases safety for responding firefighters.
- Ready! Prepare yourself, your family and your property.
- Set! Monitor fire weather, activity and prepare to evacuate.
- Go! Leave early when directed to by public safety officials.
A good portion of your plan must include prevention. By taking a preventive posture, you significantly increase your chances of saving your home and property.
Without question, defensible space works. A buffer zone created by proper grooming of your yard helps prevent the spread of fire towards your home. It also reduces the potential of local ember-loading that advances a fire. Defensible space is free of flammable plants and objects that create a zone in which firefighters can operate safely in order to help protect a home during a wildfire. This space is wide enough to prevent direct flame impingement and reduces the amount of radiant heat reaching the structure. A short drive in the local foothills will clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of such tactics.
The defensible space for each structure varies and depends on the type of vegetation and topography.
In addition to developing defensible space, it is necessary to harden your home. The priorities include your roof, eaves, vents, walls, windows and doors, balconies and decks. If it can burn, it needs your attention.
Furniture, plants and woodpiles are the type of innocent objects that can trap embers. Rain gutters can catch embers and ignite the roof. Leaves on the roof can also trap embers. Walk your property and take note of potential hazards and then take action to reduce those risks.
Consider the plants you have near your home. Acacia, Cedar, Cypress, Eucalyptus, Juniper, Pine and Pampas grass are particularly hazardous. Special attention needs to be given to the use and maintenance of such plants.
Trees that hang over your home can be dangerous not only in a wildfire, but during high winds. Trim these overhangs away from your roof. Remove any vegetation that grows vertically from the ground that can allow fire to climb into the trees. These ladder fuels can be particularly problematic in the spread of fire around your property.
Ask yourself, can the fire department easily reach your house? Is the address clearly posted? Is there an identifiable water source? Will your driveway support the weight and size of today’s fire apparatus? Is your house visible from the road? During a running wildfire, responding firefighters are going to make quick assessments as to the feasibility of staging at your house. Simple prevention tactics will go a long way towards obtaining the help you need to protect your home.
When it is time to leave, you will not prioritize what to take unless you have a plan. What occurs to you in a panic may not be what you should be thinking about. Your first priority is yourself and family, of course, followed by pets. Important papers and documents should be next, including insurance information.
Having these documents in one place and already in an easy-to-transport container such as a suitcase will prove helpful. Prescriptions and medical devices are also a priority. While your computer and other business related equipment must be taken, this can be problematic if you are not prepared.
Consider that if you have something that you cannot lose, it would be best to not have it in your home if you live in a high fire area.
The Ready! Set! Go! brochure and other suggestions are available at your local fire department. Each agency has a specifically designed brochure for your area that include telephone numbers and websites for further information. A Personal Wildfire Action Plan on the back cover is an excellent project for you and your family to complete.
Keep a copy of your plan in your car and at work in the event you cannot get to your home during a wildfire. Know how to reach your children and spouse. Have a central place to report to in the event you become separated or are unable to join up at home.
Consider your neighbors. What you do or don’t do can critically impact your neighbors. Community survival requires a community effort, working together to reduce risk. It is the responsibly of a property owner to not create risks for others. The exposure to liability can compound the tragic results to a wildfire.
Additional wildfire prevention information is available at the California Fire Safe Council website: cafiresafecouncil.org .
Prevention, planning and preparation are the answers to reducing your risk of property loss and injury. The Ready! Set! Go! program is the answer to what to do in an emergency. In the words of California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover, “You take the defense so the fire department can take the offense.”
Are you ready?
Michael S. Williams