Q: I am worried about wildfire season. What can I do to protect my home?
A: There are many ways you can prepare your home and yard to make it as safe as possible to prevent fires from spreading to your house. While there are some things we cannot prevent, we do have the ability to reduce our risk significantly by making some changes to our landscaping.
More then half of homes that ignite on fire are caused by embers. You can make your house “fire hardened” by reducing the opportunity for embers from wildfires to get inside your home and igniting.
By hardening your home, you are addressing the areas that are vulnerable to ignition and examining the building materials and landscaping that increase resistance to the heat, flames, and embers that accompany most wildfires.
Start by doing a walk around your home and observing anything that might be near your house that is flammable. The first 5 feet surrounding your home are the most important to ensure fire safety. If you have wicker patio furniture that is up against your home, be aware that it could ignite easily in an ember storm. If you learn there is a fire nearby, move all furniture, including grills, far away from your home.
Look for shrubs or bushes that are up against the side of your home. Ensure any plants in the first 5-foot area are healthy and green. Clear any debris or dry brush from under them regularly. Do not leave firewood stacked up against your home because that could easily ignite and spread the fire to your house.
Between 5 and 30 feet from your home you should ensure there is adequate spacing between trees. There should be at least 18 feet between trees or clumps of trees.
While walking around your home also examine the building for any worn or splintering areas. Those are more susceptible to catching fire and need to be sanded and painted, if possible.
In advance of wildfire season, you should also put together a to go bag with all your important personal belongings. You can see a list of what to include here https://www.readyventuracounty.org/prepare/
Before you leave your home, turn on all inside and outside lights to assist the firefighters. Close all windows, vents, and doors in an effort to prevent embers from getting inside. And move all flammable furniture into the center of home.
Senior Concerns is offering a free seminar to the public on this topic, called Understanding Wildfire and How to Prepare Your Home on Tuesday, August 3rd at 3pm. It will be presented over Zoom by Elaine Himelfarb, Executive Director of the Ventura Regional County Fire Safe Council. You can register for this seminar at https://www.seniorconcerns.org/seminars/
By attending this seminar, you will learn more tips on how to ensure your home is as fire safe as possible, and you will have the opportunity to ask questions. Also important is to think about your evacuation plan. Prepare your evacuation bag and keep a written list of what you need to do in the event of evacuation.
There is much we can all do to prepare our homes to be as defensible against fire as possible. The key is to imagine an ember storm on your home and what you can reduce or change to prevent any embers from catching and igniting. If the full fire is upon your home, then there may be nothing to prevent the house from catching fire, but we can reduce our risk. If the time comes be prepared to evacuate and stay safe.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org