California Is On Fire, Literally!

When I wrote this, there were more than 25 fires burning in our state and Gov. Brown declared 15 California counties—including San Diego—disaster areas.

So what does this have to do with your garden? Everything! With our drought extending while we continue to do the rain dance and hope El Nino will help us, our landscapes are drying up. They are becoming fire hazards for our homes.

Many homes lost in fires are started by flying embers. This is why one of the first things you should do is to clear out your rain gutters and any roof debris, and make sure nothing can get in through any cracks. Make a defensible space around your home by reducing or eliminating high resin/sap vegetation, or at least cut it way back. If you have to make a choice, irrigate the landscape closest to your house and keep the “if they make it, they make it they make it plants” further from your home.

A free visit from your local fire department can be helpful. I hesitated to have the inspector visit, because I was afraid it would mean another government bureaucrat would be poking around my property, looking to fine me. But that’s not what happened at all. The inspector was delighted that we were being proactive.  Here were the recommendations the fire inspector gave us:

* Replace roof vents with ember-retardant ones
* Cut any tree branches that touch the roof
* Move our firewood 50 to 100 feet away from the house
* Remove wood structures like trellises and gates that attach to the house
* Push mulch that touches the house back 6 to 12 inches, and replace with gravel
* Remove candlesticks (these are continuous rows of shrubs or trees with no break as they lead from one part of your property directly to your house)

You may have different concerns. No matter what, check with your local fire department to see if they will send someone out to inspect your property.

Another thing to do is to review your fire insurance policy. Some policies include the cost of foaming your home should a fire be imminent. Take pictures or videos of everything—both inside and outside your house, even the inside of drawers and cupboards. Copies of all important documents and files can be put in a fireproof safe in your home or in a safe deposit box at a bank. You are automatically backing up all your computer files to the cloud, aren’t you?

Have a written emergency plan. There are great guides for this online and from your local fire department. We have boxes labeled by if we have 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours to get out. We know what to do and what we are taking.

Prepare your property, and prepare your family.




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