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May 10, 2011 > Prepare your home against wildfire

Prepare your home against wildfire

By Meenu Gupta
Photos By Meenu Gupta

Inevitable wildfires wreak havoc on California communities affecting lives, destroying property and impacting the environment. The aftermath is often just as destructive. "Every year CALFIRE and our cooperators answer the calls to nearly 350,000 emergencies and calls for service including an average of over 5,000 wild land fires," said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE acting director. "Each year we are asked to make a guess as to how bad this year's fire season is going to be. It's impossible to predict the reality as there are many factors that determine it."

Fire season may be delayed by few weeks this year because of increased precipitation but when warm temperatures and dry conditions persist, grass starts turning brown. Pimlott said it is really not a matter of "if" but "when" fires will happen. While the hills still remain green, property owners and home owners need to take aggressive action to protect themselves and their properties against wild land fire.

This year's public education message is "Wildfire is coming. Is your home ready?" Consistent with this is the message "Ready, Set, Go." This campaign encourages citizens to prepare their families and properties from wildfire. It includes maintaining 100-feet defensible space around property; removing leaves from roofs and gutters. The "Get Set" portion of the campaign reiterates the importance of having a disaster plan for emergencies. "The plan should include at least two evacuation routes from your neighborhood," said Pimlott. Wildfires, being dynamic, can change directions very quickly. There may not be time for officials to issue an evacuation order, so residents should take the initiative and be prepared to evacuate early and not wait for directions or asked to leave."

Cal Fire's nearly 5,000 men and women and additional seasonal workforce of 2,000 firefighters are engaged in spring training, honing their skills necessary to perform the wide range of emergency response duties required of them to meet this year's wildfire threat. "CALFIRE and our cooperators are currently performing defensible space inspections and talking to homeowners about what they can do to make their homes safe," said Pimlott.

Cal Fire has also launched a website, www.readyforwildfire.org, for homeowners to get key information on what they can do to protect their homes against wildfire. "As you receive letters on how to protect your property to make it safe for this fire season, we need you to adhere to those instructions, we need you to ask and request help for your local jurisdiction or CALFIRE or Alameda County web page," said Alameda County Fire Department Chief Sheldon Gilbert.

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