San Diego County offers homeowners guidance on wildfire protection

October 24, 2023

San Diego County has released a guide to help homeowners, renters, and landlords with fire safety tips, resources, and strategies for defending their homes against wildfires.

These steps have become increasingly important as the region witnessed the devastating impact of wildfires in the recent past.

:For more information on fire safety tips and resources, visit the original article here.

Understanding wildfire causes and prevention

Fire incidents can stem from various causes, like lightning strikes, failed power lines, or intentional arson.

However, Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan, a manager for the National Fire Protection Association‘s Firewise USA program, emphasized the importance of routine maintenance: “It’s just taking the time, maybe each week or each month to check your property, do a little tidying up, and to be as proactive and ready as you can be,” Fitzgerald-McGowan mentioned.

Such efforts not only benefit the homeowners but also support fire response teams.

Wildfire protection with DIY home improvements

Improving wildfire protection for your home doesn’t need to be expensive.

Cal Fire has provided low-cost examples for retrofitting homes against ember intrusion and potential fire threats:

  • Block gaps between roof and sheathing with noncombustible materials.
  • Use ember and flame-resistant vents.
  • Cover chimney outlets with a noncombustible metal mesh screen.
  • Install gutter covers to prevent leaf buildup.
  • Seal gaps larger than one-eighth inch between garage doors.
  • Consider multipaned windows with tempered glass. Additionally, Cal Fire recommends: Deck surfaces close to a home should be made of ignition-resistant materials. Avoid attaching fences directly to homes or use noncombustible material for the last 5 feet. Patio covers should mirror the roof’s ignition-resistant materials. Metal, clay, or tile roofs are safer than wood or shingle roofs. Visibility is key, Fitzgerald-McGowan advises homeowners to display clear, reflective home addresses and warning signs for underground utilities.

Creating a defensible space for your home

A defensible space, the gap between your home and vegetation, plays a pivotal role in wildfire protection.

This space not only protects homes but also offers firefighters a safe zone to operate in. Cal Fire suggests homeowners:

  • Remove dead wood from trees.
  • Prune limbs near chimneys.
  • Clear roofs and gutters of vegetative debris.
  • Keep areas near homes and driveways free of combustible vegetation.
  • Position combustibles away from propane tanks. Working from your home outward is most effective, Fitzgerald-McGowan advises, emphasizing the importance of rocks, pavers, and bare dirt over bark and mulch near homes.

Landscaping strategies for wildfire protection

Landscape choices can also aid in reducing fire risk.

Cal Fire emphasizes vegetation placement, advising homeowners to position plants and trees at least 5 feet away from structures and to maintain distance between trees and shrubs.

On landscape maintenance, Nan Sterman, a San Diego botanist, underscored its importance: “It’s really important that you keep your landscape hydrated,” Sterman said.

Despite misconceptions, no specific plant guarantees fire safety. For mulching, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources recommends materials such as wood chips, rice straw, shredded rubber, and paving stones.

FSJA Comment

The escalating number of wildfires in recent years has made fire safety a top priority for homeowners in San Diego County and across California.

These practical steps, from routine property maintenance to strategic landscaping, offer a multipronged approach to protect not only individual homes but entire communities.

It’s not just about safeguarding properties; it’s about creating safer spaces for firefighters and emergency personnel.

As these guidelines become more prevalent, we hope to see a decrease in wildfire-related damages and a more informed and prepared public.

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