Living in Southern California, the risk of fire is unfortunately part of life. Recent fires in the area should be a good reminder that these emergencies could occur at any time. Just last month, there was a small brush fire that broke out on a westbound shoulder of the 210 Freeway by the Angeles Crest Highway off ramp, which closed two lanes of freeway traffic for more than one hour. There was no property loss, but a tree was engulfed in flames and all the surrounding dry brush was consumed. It’s lucky that the fire was quickly contained, but that is not always the case. The Station Fire in 2009, for example, burned 160,000 acres.
Pasadena and La Canada Flintridge are particularly vulnerable to a dangerous wild fire because of the proximity to the foothills and the lush urban canopy. Thankfully, there are things you can do to protect your property and be prepared in case a fire does break out in your area.
Prepare Your Home
Pasadena does an annual Brush Clearance to inspect homes and ensure fire safety in the community. This applies to the “high hazard area,” which is defined by the section of the city located south of Monterey Road and west of Meridian Avenue. In order to be cleared, make sure all flammable vegetation or combustible growth has been removed within 30 feet of any structure. You also must have a 100-foot clearance space around your home that is free of brush. Single trees, ornamental shrubbery or cultivated ground covers may be permitted provided they are maintained in such a manner that they do not easily transmit fire from the vegetation to the structure.
If your home is in a particularly dangerous area (near a grove of trees, for example), the inspecting fire officer may require an additional 100 feet of clearance space for a total of 200 feet minimum clearance away from any structure.
In addition, you should make the following fire safety efforts for your home and property:
- Remove dead branches from living trees. Dead branches are not allowed to overhang the roofs of buildings or structures. All roof structures should be free of dead leaves and flammable debris.
- Remove any portion of any tree that extends within 10 feet of the outlet of a chimney.
- Stacked wood is not allowed within 30 feet of a structure. Flammable vegetation shall not be allowed within 10 feet of woodpiles
- Address identification should be clearly visible from the street fronting the property
It’s important to make these landscaping activities part of your regular routine. If you have a professional landscaper, discuss these fire safety efforts with them. For larger or hard-to-reach trees, you may want to hire a professional tree removal company.
If your home is not up to the proper standards during the fire stations’ inspection, you can be fined for brush clearance. Not only will there be a financial reparation, if you leave it to the County to take care of, you are putting yourself and your neighbors at risk. Take it upon yourself to clear the brush and other vegetation as soon as possible.
Have A Plan
In addition to preparing your home, your entire family needs a fire preparedness plan. This should include escape routes from your home, both via car and by foot. Designate a meeting place in a safe area in case you are separated.
For all emergencies, including fire, you should have an an evacuation bag prepared, which should include;
- A three day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and non-perishable food.
- Change of clothes and shoes – for all climates, and easy to run in if necessary.
- Blanket or sleeping bag for each person
- First aid kit, including prescription medications
- Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries.
- Important documents in a waterproof container, including copies of passports, car keys, credit card, cash, and traveler’s checks.
It’s advised to assemble a smaller version of your emergency kit to keep in the trunk of your car as well.
Make sure the entire family knows how to use a fire extinguisher, how to call 911, and what to do if you see smoke. We all need to know fire safety tricks to keep our community safe from a wildfire.