How to be safe and prepare for a wildfire

By: Andy Portillo, Loomis Fire Protection District
-A +A
As temperatures heat up and grass and brush dry out, wildfires can be a significant threat in the Loomis Basin. The best way to protect your property and home from wildfires is prevention and preparation. Listed here are several suggestions that you can implement immediately to better prepare for wildfires. Create safety zones around your home. All vegetation is fuel for a wildfire, though some trees and shrubs are more flammable than others. To reduce the risk, you will need to modify or eliminate brush, trees and other vegetation near your home. The greater the distance is between your home and the vegetation, the greater the protection. Create a 30-foot safety zone around the house. Keep the volume of vegetation in this zone to a minimum. If you live on a hill, extend the zone on the downhill side. Fire spreads rapidly uphill. The steeper the slope, the more open space you will need to protect your home. Swimming pools and patios can be a safety zone and stone walls can act as heat shields and deflect flames. In this zone, you should also do the following: • Remove vines from the walls of the house. • Move shrubs and other landscaping away from the sides of the house. • Prune branches and shrubs within 15 feet of chimneys and stove pipes. • Remove tree limbs within 15 feet of the ground. • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns. • Replace highly flammable vegetation such as pine, eucalyptus, junipers and fir trees with lower growing, less flammable species. Check with your local fire department or garden store for suggestions. • Replace vegetation that has living or dead branches from the ground-level up (these act as ladder fuels for the approaching fire). • Cut the lawn often keeping the grass at a maximum of 2 inches. Watch grass and other vegetation near the driveway, a source of ignition from automobile exhaust systems. • Clear the area of leaves, brush, evergreen cones, dead limbs and fallen trees. Create a second zone at least 100 feet around the house. This zone should begin about 30 feet from the house and extend to at least 100 feet. In this zone, reduce or replace as much of the most flammable vegetation as possible. If you live on a hill, you may need to extend the zone for several hundred feet to provide the desired level of safety. Clear all combustibles within 30 feet of any structure. • Install electrical lines underground, if possible • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines. • Avoid using bark and wood chip mulch • Stack firewood 100 feet away and uphill from any structure. • Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep them away from the house. • Keep the gas grill and propane tank at least 15 feet from any structure. Clear an area 15 feet around the grill. Place a 1/4 inch mesh screen over the grill. Always use the grill cautiously but refrain from using it all during high risk times. When creating your defensible space, be sure to limit your mowing to the morning hours because temperatures are cooler and humidity levels are higher at those times. Call the Loomis Fire Protection District at 652-6858, the Penryn Fire Protection District at 663-3389ß, or the South Placer Fire Protection District at 791-7059 if you need additional information about fire prevention and preparation. Andy Portillo is an engineer and public information coordinator with the Loomis Fire Protection District