With severe drought conditions in place throughout California and hot, summer weather fast approaching, local fire agencies are bracing for what is anticipated to be an eventful wildfire season
“It's going to be pretty nasty out there,” said Zayante Fire Protection District Chief John Stipes. “We're in the first week of May and around the state we're in severe fire danger weather — what you’d typically see in October.”
The dry conditions brought on by the minimal rainfall over the winter means that homeowners should begin taking steps now to prepare themselves and their properties for the event of a wildfire.
“The main thing is that people are living in very fire-prone environment now,” Stipes said. “With the drought conditions we've had, obviously we're not going to get any more rain this year.”
Basic property maintenance, planning, and common sense, he said, are keys in fire preparation — especially in the rural areas of Santa Cruz County.
“A lot of people just don’t realize that just basic maintenance can lessen the odds of their house being taken away by a fire,” Stipes said. “One ember from a wildfire can travel 1 to 2 miles away — you don’t want to put flammable stuff up against your house.”
Maintenance steps that homeowners should take include:
- Clean leaves and debris from the roof and rain gutters
- Trim tree limbs to keep them at least 6 to 8 feet away from the ground
- Move firewood at least 30 feet away from the house
- Remove dead vegetation
- Break up continuous vegetation
- Store patio furniture when it is not in use
However, Stipes said, even with all the precautions in the world, no home is ever completely safe from wildfires.
In the event of a wildfire, he said, the priority has to be that everyone makes it out safely, not saving property. To do that, families need to have an organized, practiced evacuation plan.
“Sometimes you just have to roll the dice and hope your house is still there when you get back,” he said. “People need to be prepared for it and not wait for the last minute.”
Stipes advised families to:
- Devise an evacuation plan, and practice it
- Keep important documents and items in one, easy-to-grab place
- Have a designated emergency rendezvous point
- Have an emergency contact outside the area
For more wildfire preparation tips, visit http://www.ready.gov/wildfires