by WYNNE LOVE

For longtime residents of Southern California, the arrival of fall brings memories of wildfires as much as it does apple-picking and holiday gatherings. That should come as no surprise according to the local fire department, since a third of all homes in San Diego County are located in what they call Wildland Urban Interface. Here we’ve compiled advice from local firefighters and their best online resources in order to help you stay safe this season.

 

1. Maintain 100 feet of defensible space around your home. Chief Jim Sturtevant of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire District confirms that this is one of the most important steps homeowners can take in preparation for wildfire season. Removing all flammable materials and keeping vegetation well-watered and properly trimmed around the home is critical to keeping fire at bay. Access the City of San Diego guide to fire safety and brush management at wildfirelessons.net/documents/San_Diego_Fire_brushpdf.pdf. Detailed advice based on the latest research is also available at www.californiachaparral.com/bprotectingyourhome.html.

 

2. Secure your home. Many of the homes felled by the Cedar Fire of 2003 and Witch Creek Fire of 2007 were victims of flying embers. Closing all windows and doors is crucial. See additional tips at www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dplu/fire_resistant.html, www.rsf-fire.org/prepare/menulist.html and firesafemendocino.org/articles/embers.html.

 

3. Keep copies of important documents off premises and store paper and digital files in a place where you can grab them quickly. For a list of documents you’ll want to protect, visit www.emergencydude.com/emergency-documents.shtml.

 

4. Know how to secure your utilities: sdge.com/fire-emergencies.

 

5. Register on Alert San Diego. Many of us don’t have landlines anymore. If you haven’t already, register your cell phone or e-mail for reverse 911 notifications at www.readysandiego.org/alertsandiego.

 

6. Plan an escape route and a rendezvous point. Visit www.readysandiego.org for tips on every type of disaster preparedness.

 

7. Discuss and practice evacuating with your family. Reassure children that if they are at school, they will be kept there until it is safe for you to pick them up. See www.theredguidetorecovery.com for disaster management tips and resources.

 

8. Keep a full tank of gas in the car.

 

9. Prepare an emergency survival kit. Numerous resources exist online to help you purchase or prepare your own kit. Visit californiavolunteers.org/familyplan/pdf/supplies_checklist.pdf for a 3-day survival list, www.readysandiego.org/resources/checklist_1.pdf, or www.sandiego.gov/fire/safety/tips/emergencykit.shtml for additional suggestions.

 

10. Download your own “Family Disaster Plan and Survival Guide” from ReadySanDiego.org and discuss this “burning issue” with your friends and neighbors.