Are You Ready for Wildfire? Low-Cost Retrofits to Your Home that Can Save Property and Lives!

Being Ready for Wildfire starts with maintaining an adequate defensible space and by hardening your home by using fire resistant building materials. 

In a recent blog post, I presented my firefighter son’s Family Emergency Plan information.  Here are several low-cost ways to harden your home to maximize its ability to withstand a wildfire and to keep your family safe when you can’t evacuate.

Nearly all of the 68th Assembly District is considered “Wildland Urban Interface (WUI),” where human made structures and infrastructure (e.g., cell towers, schools, water supply facilities, etc.) are in or adjacent to areas prone to the danger of wildfire.  Newer developmnents are pressing ever closer to wildland, increasing the danger of WUI wildfires and the need to be prepared.

Taking the right actions now to prepare your family and home for the next California wildfire can save your property and your family members’ lives.

Roof:
The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. Homes with wood or shingle roofs are at high risk of being destroyed during a wildfire. Build your roof or re-roof with materials such as composition, metal or tile. Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching.

Vents:
Vents on homes create openings for flying embers. Cover all vent openings with 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch metal mesh. Do not use fiberglass or plastic mesh because they can melt and burn.
Protect vents in eaves or cornices with baffles to block embers (mesh is not enough).

Eaves and Soffits:
Eaves and soffits should be protected with ignition-resistant or non-combustible materials.

Windows:
Heat from a wildfire can cause windows to break even before the home is on fire. This allows burning embers to enter and start fires inside. Single-paned and large windows are particularly vulnerable. Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breakage in a fire. Consider limiting the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation.

Walls:
Wood products, such as boards, panels or shingles, are common siding materials. However, they are flammable and not good choices for fire-prone areas. Build or remodel your walls with ignition resistant* building materials, such as stucco, fiber cement wall siding, fire retardant, treated wood, or other approved materials. Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.

Decks:
Surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant*, non-combustible, or other approved materials. Ensure that all combustible items are removed from underneath your deck.

Rain Gutters:
Keep rain gutters clear or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris.

Patio Cover:
Use the same ignition-resistant* materials for patio coverings as a roof.

Chimney:
Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-flammable screen. Use metal screen material with openings no smaller than 3/8-inch and no larger than 1/2-inch to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.

Garage: 
Have a fire extinguisher and tools such as a shovel, rake, bucket, and hose available for fire emergencies.  Install weather stripping around and under the garage door to prevent embers from blowing in. Store all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.

Fences:
Consider using ignition-resistant* or non-combustible fence materials to protect your home during a wildfire.

Driveways and Access Roads:
Driveways should be built and maintained in accordance with state and local codes to allow fire and emergency vehicles to reach your home. Consider maintaining access roads with a minimum of 10 feet of clearance on either side, allowing for two-way traffic.  Ensure that all gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate emergency equipment.
Trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass.

Clearly Marked Address:
Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road.

Water Supply:
Consider having multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property. If you have a pool or well, consider getting a pump.

Watch CalFire’s video on harding your home to protect from wildfire:

Useful Links:

Wildfire is Coming: Are You Ready?

Fire Information Engine—Preparing Your Home

University of California—Fire Resources and Information

Orange County County Authority — Ready, Set, Go!

Orange County County Authority — Wildland Fire Danger Rating

Note: Ignition-resistant building materials are those that resist ignition or sustained burning when exposed to embers and small flames from wildfires. Examples of ignition-resistant materials include “non-combustible materials” that don’t burn, exterior grade fire-retardant-treated wood lumber, fire-retardant-treated wood shakes and shingles listed by the State Fire Marshal (SFM) and any material that has been tested in accordance with SFM Standard 12-7A-5.

Wildfire, Earthquake, and COVID-19: Max Fox’s Family Emergency Plan

(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

My son, Max Fox, is an EMT and HazMat specialist.  He had been studying firefighting and emergency management at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, until he came home for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.  With wildfires raging across the state, I asked him about what he would advise local families that want to prepare for emergencies.  Here is what he wrote:

“As Californians, there are certain emergencies that we should all be prepared for: earthquakes, fire, and flood.  We should have Family Emergency Plans for these all too common occurrences.

Family Emergency Plans should include (1) an emergency family communication plan in case of separation, (2) consideration of the special needs of each member of your household (such as medications or medical equipment), and (3) plans for your most important documents (such as identification and insurance).

Documents you should consider including as part of your Family Emergency Plan are:

  • A copy of each family member’s driver’s license and passport
  • Each family member’s Social Security card or number
  • A copy of each family member’s birth certificate
  • A copy of everyone’s medical records and list of vaccinations, including your pet’s
  • Authorization for treatment
  • Property titles for your car and home
  • All of your bank, credit card and investment account numbers and corresponding customer service telephone numbers
  • Health insurance and life insurance account information
  • Photographs or videos of all of your property to make potential insurance claims easier
  • Wills, as well as living wills and a power of attorney
  • Your latest tax return
  • Your marriage certificate
  • Adoption and citizenship papers
  • Military records
  • Medications and eyeglass prescriptions
  • Important files backed up on an external hard-drive
  • Copies of your favorite family photographs

A Family Emergency Plan for the current COVID-19 pandemic should incorporate many of the same features.

For families with young children, plans should also include lists of other trusted adults who are able to look after your children should a parent become sick and/or hospitalized.

People with children — or people taking care of seniors — should also make a list that has everything the caregiver should know about the children and/or seniors, their allergies, any medical documentation that may be needed, as well as written authorizations for treatment.

Plans should also include provisions for care of your pets, if you are not able to leave them home or continue to care for them.

In an emergency, it is very easy to forget something, so an important part of making your plan should also include making a pre-prepared “go-bag” (a bag of stuff needed in an emergency that is already pack with everything you need). An emergency go-bag might include:

  • At least three days of water for every member of the family
  • Non-perishable food options, like nuts, canned goods and granola bars
  • Changes of clothing and footwear for each member of the family
  • Sleeping bags or rolled blankets
  • First-aid kit supplies
  • Emergency supplies, such as a battery-operated radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, duct tape, plastic bags, water purification tablets, local maps and a compass, aluminum foil, matches and a can opener
  • Basic tools, like pliers, a wrench, an axe and a utility knife
  • Personal care items such as toilet paper, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine products, extra eyeglasses and contact lens solution
  • Money, including a few personal checks.

I hope no one will have to use their plan, but it is always better to have a plan and go-bag and not need it, then it is to need a plan and go-bag but not have them.

Please stay safe.  Whether in case of fire, earthquake or other emergency, please remember that COVID-19 is still a killer, so be sure to wear a mask, wash your hands, and maintain social distancing.”

Please Consider Donating to the California Fire Foundation’s SAVE Program!

The California Fire Foundation’s Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program brings immediate, short-term relief to victims of fire and other natural disasters throughout California.

Through this program, frontline firefighters in California provide SAVE gift cards to eligible victims of fire and natural disasters, so they may purchase basic necessities such as food, clothing or medicine.

The SAVE program has grown steadily since 2014 and has impacted more than 55,000 victims in California to date. The SAVE program is administered directly by participating fire departments across California each day, and mobilizes for rapid disaster relief when communities are impacted by wildfire or natural disasters. The SAVE program is a reliable way for Foundation supporters to provide direct relief to victims, especially in the first 24-48 hours after a disaster.

You can watch a video about the SAVE program here:

If you are able, please make a donation HERE.

The California Fire Foundation provides critical support to surviving families of fallen firefighters, firefighters, and the communities they serve. Your tax-deductible donations will help commemorate fallen heroes, offer scholarships to children of fallen firefighters, provide aid to victims of fire or other natural disaster, and provide fire safety resources to underserved communities across California.

Do you know how to protect yourself, your family and your neighborhood against wildfire?  Are you prepared for an emergency?

Wildfire preparedness emphasizes these key messages: Ready, Set and Go.

Ready: Protect your home ahead of time by taking steps to mitigate wildfire risk.

Set: Prepare for an emergency by assembling a bag of important items that you would need in the event of emergency. This includes clothes, medication and other personal items. Develop a family emergency plan that details escape routes and reunification plans.

Go: Leave early in the event of an emergency. Avoid traffic congestion and other complications by evacuating at the earliest opportunity.

Nearly all of the 68th Assembly District is subject to the danger of wildfire! Residents are strongly encouraged to sign up to receive emergency notifications at AlertOC.org.

Orange County Fire Authority Press Release on New FIRIS Critical Wildfire Intel Program and Increased Local Staffing During Extreme Red Flag Weather

The Orange County Fire Authority is now using the Fire Integrated Real Time Intelligence System (FIRIS), a 150-day pilot program funded with $4.5 million from a state grant secured by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.

Below is an OCFA Press Release detailing deployment of FIRIS and increased staff during the current extreme Red Flag Warning period.

NEW FIRIS PROGRAM PROVIDING

CRITICAL WILDFIRE INTEL

And OCFA Supports Neighboring Fires While Maintain Increased Local Staffing

Irvine, CA – October 29, 2019 – Since being launched nearly two months ago, the new Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS) pilot program aircraft has flown more than a dozen missions and provided enhanced situational awareness to numerous fire agencies. Knowing the fire perimeter and the direction a wind-driven fire is moving has helped decision-makers on the ground determine where to put resources and more importantly which communities to evacuate.

The FIRIS program is fast becoming one of the first air resources requested by Southern California fire agencies when a wildfire breaks out. The ability of the fixed-wing aircraft, equipped with cameras and infrared and radar sensors that can see through smoke, to provide real-time fire perimeter mapping and live high definition video has made a positive difference for incident commanders and decision-makers located in local Command Centers. Data sent from the twin-engine fixed-wing aircraft has also supported the UC San Diego WIFIRE Laboratory that uses its supercomputer to provide a fire spread progression model to be shared with the incident and command center staff.

A partial list of wildfires assisted by FIRIS include: Tenaja –RRU, Ortega-ORC, Palisades-LAF, SaddleRidgeLAF/LAC, Tick, Old, ValVerde-LAC, Kincade-LNU and Getty-LAF.

In addition to the high tech tools being used by the FIRIS pilot program aircraft, Orange County Fire Authority has been supporting its neighbors in Los Angeles with boots on the ground. Currently, four OCFA strike teams are assisting with the Getty Fire. More than 80 firefighters assigned to ten Type 3 brush rigs, and ten Type 1 fire engines are helping to contain the blaze. In addition, the Southern California Edison (SCE) funded night-time hover-filling helitanker and reconnaissance helicopter are also providing support to the Getty Fire. Two of strike teams had previously been assigned to the Tick Fire with the additional two responding upon immediate request of Los Angeles Fire Department.

Neighboring Fires While Maintain Increased Local Staffing

More than a dozen firefighters of various levels, from Division Chief to firefighter, are also providing management and logistics support at the Tick and Kinkade fires.

“Nothing will replace the need for firefighters on the ground battling out of control wildfires. And I appreciate what our men and women do every day,” said Orange County Fire Authority Fire Chief Brian Fennessy. “I am also thankful that through collaboration, the FIRIS technology is helping to make a difference in decision-making which ultimately leads to suppressing wildfires more quickly.”

With critical fire weather predicted through the week, OCFA continues to have increased staffing in order to quickly respond to any wildfire that breaks out in our service territory. More than 100 additional firefighters are ready to respond in a moment’s notice. They’re staffing the following:

  • 10 – Type 1 Fire Engines
  • 5 – Type 3 Brush Rigs
  • 2 – Dozers
  • 3 – Helicopters
  • 2 – Hand Crews
  • 5 – Type 6 Patrols

The community is asked to remain diligent during this critical fire weather. If the wind is blowing, refrain from yard work with motorized equipment, never drive or park on dry grass, and throw cigarettes or other smoking materials properly in containers. For my tips, please visit OCFA.org/rsg.

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Watch Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy on Leadership: “Building a Mission-Driven Culture”

One of the accomplishments I’m most proud of as a public official is advocating as a member of the board of directors of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) for the selection of Brian Fennessy as our new Fire Chief.

OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy is one of the nation’s most respected leaders in the crucial field of emergency management.

Recently, Fire Chief Fennessy was invited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to present his perspective on emergency management leadership to a national audience.

In his talk, titled “Building a Mission-Driven Culture,” Chief Fennessy shares the values of a mission-driven culture and the importance of intent-based leadership in emergency management.

Chief Fennessy also discusses his path to leadership and why he firmly believes that a mission-driven culture is critical to organizational success in times of chaos and during daily operations.

All of us involved in emergency response and management — first responders, public officials, citizen volunteers — will benefit from the wisdom and experience of OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy in this extremely timely talk.

Watch Chief Fennessy’s FEMA PrepTalk “Building a Mission-Driven Culture” here:

Meet “Captain Cal” — CAL FIRE’s New Ambassador for Fire Safety and Prevention!

I had the opportunity yesterday in Sacramento to attend the introduction of “Captain Cal” — CAL FIRE’s Fire’s new ambassador for fire safety and prevention — to the people of California.

Chief Thom Porter, the Director of California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, announced that Captain Cal’s primary mission is to help expand CAL FIRE’s educational outreach and to teach children about emergency preparedness, fire safety and prevention, safe and sane fireworks, and water safety.

Assemblymember Christy Smith, Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, pointed out that Californians need to be prepared for the “new normal” of a year-round California fire season.

Climate change, couple with population growth, has drastically increased the frequency, severity and destructiveness of wildfires. Ten of the 20 most destructive fires in California history have occurred since 2015.

In 2018 alone, more than 2 million acres of California’s forests burned. The combination of many years of drought followed by recent heavy rains means that we should expect more severe fires again this year.

Under Governor Gavin Newsom and Chief Porter, the State of California is significantly increasing it’s commitment to wildfire prevention and response, as well as education, in the face of these new conditions.

Captain Cal’s motto is “Safety starts with you!”

You can find out more about Captain Cal and fire safety at www.readyforwildfire.org.

 

 

Wildfire Preparedness Week: Wildfire is Coming . . . Are You Ready?

As CAL FIRE, reminds us, Wildfire is coming . . . Are you ready?

This is Wildfire Preparedness Week.

Each year California highlights the importance of wildfire prevention and preparedness by declaring the first full week of May as “Wildfire Preparedness Week.”

This year during the week of May 5-11, CAL FIRE, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) and fire departments across the state will remind residents of the dangers posed by wildfires and the simple steps that should be followed to prepare for and prevent them.

Despite getting some much-needed rain this winter, we’re expecting another dangerous fire season.

You can learn more about wildfire prevention at OCFA’s press conference on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. at Station 41, located at Fullerton Airport.  For more information, contact OCFA PIO at 714-357-7782.

One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire!

Approximately 95 percent of all wildfires are sparked by the activity of people, which means that almost all wildfires are preventable.

One of the leading causes of wildfires is outdoor powered equipment. Use powered equipment before 10 a.m. and never on hot and windy days. When clearing dead or dying grass don’t use a lawn mower or weed trimmer with a metal blade.

Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained with nothing dragging on the ground like trailer chains. All residents and vacationers need to be extra cautious outdoors because one less spark means one less wildfire.

Learn more by clicking here

Ready, Set, Go! 

With fire activity already above average, Californians should remember “Ready, Set, Go!

Ready: Protect your home ahead of time by taking steps to mitigate wildfire risk.

Set: Prepare for an emergency by assembling a bag of important items that you would need in the event of emergency. This includes clothes, medication and other personal items. Develop a family emergency plan that details escape routes and reunification plans.

Go: Leave early in the event of an emergency. Avoid traffic congestion and other complications by evacuating at the earliest opportunity. In the event of evacuation, all City of Irvine emergency shelters will have options available for pets.

Learn more by clicking here.

Be Prepared and Take Action!

As climate changes, and as home-building expands ever closer to more areas subject to wildfire, the danger to our lives and property increases.

Watch an OCFA video on wildfire preparedness by clicking here.

Please learn what you should do to help our firefighters keep your family safe!

 

Learn How to Keep Your Family and Your Community Ready for Wildfires!

Do you know how to protect against wildfire?  Are you prepared for an emergency?

On Monday, November 5, 2018, you can learn how to keep yourself, your family, and your community safe at a free informational meeting on wildfire preparedness from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) Fire Station 27, located at 12400 Portola Springs, Irvine CA 92618.

A plane drops fire retardant in the Cleveland National Forest behind homes along Crystal Ridge Court in Lake Elsinore as the Holy fire burned near homes on Wednesday afternoon, August 8, 2018. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The outreach focuses on the Ready, Set, Go strategy championed by OCFA and will include a Question and Answer Session.

The wildfire outreach campaign emphasizes these key messages:

Ready: Protect your home ahead of time by taking steps to mitigate wildfire risk.

Set: Prepare for an emergency by assembling a bag of important items that you would need in the event of emergency. This includes clothes, medication and other personal items. Develop a family emergency plan that details escape routes and reunification plans.

Go: Leave early in the event of an emergency. Avoid traffic congestion and other complications by evacuating at the earliest opportunity. In the event of evacuation, all City of Irvine emergency shelters will have options available for pets.

Irvine neighborhoods most at risk of wildfire include Turtle Rock, Shady Canyon, Quail Hill, Orchard Hills and Portola Springs.

Irvine residents are further encouraged to sign up to receive emergency notifications at AlertOC.org.

Visit cityofirvine.org or ocfa.org/rsg for more information on wildfire preparedness.

You can visit the Facebook event page here.

Ready, Set, Go: Irvine Police and Orange County Fire Authority Team Up to Educate Irvine Residents on Wildfire Threat

As the smoke from the Holy Jim Fire rises like a nuclear blast high above Saddleback Mountain’s Santiago Peak, looking up should be all that is needed to remind Irvine residents of the very real threat that wildfires present to our community.

That’s why the newly announced “Ready, Set, Go” Wildfire Preparedness Program recently launched by the Irvine Police Department and the Orange County Fire Authority could not be more timely.

The Irvine Police Department’s Office of Emergency Management is partnering with the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) on a Wildfire Preparedness campaign that kicked off Tuesday. The outreach focuses on the “Ready, Set, Go” strategy championed by OCFA.

Irvine neighborhoods that are most at risk of wildfire will be targeted, including Turtle Rock, Shady Canyon, Quail Hill, Orchard Hills and Portola Springs.

Residents will notice banners carrying the “Ready, Set, Go” message, and those who live in at-risk areas will receive postcards in the mail offering tips on how to prepare for wildfire. The Irvine Police Department and OCFA will also utilize social media to spread the word.

The campaign emphasizes these key messages:

Ready: Protect your home ahead of time by taking steps to mitigate wildfire risk.

Set: Prepare for an emergency by assembling a bag of important items that you would need in the event of emergency. This includes clothes, medication and other personal items. Develop a family emergency plan that details escape routes and reunification plans.

Go: Leave early in the event of an emergency. Avoid traffic congestion and other complications by evacuating at the earliest opportunity. In the event of evacuation, all City of Irvine emergency shelters will have options available for pets.

Irvine residents are further encouraged to sign up to receive emergency notifications at AlertOC.org.

The campaign continues through October 31. Visit cityofirvine.org or ocfa.org/rsg for more information on wildfire preparedness.