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Becoming firewise crucial for being fire safe

The 2015 fire season in Eastern Madera County looks dire. The coming fire season appears to be on track to be even more severe than the 2014 season.

A look to the hillsides and one can’t help but notice the dead and dying trees in the landscape. This along with the fourth year of drought in our area is contributing to the possibility of a very active fire season.

Cal Fire has been rated the best fire department in the world, but even Cal Fire cannot protect all the homes that have been built in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). The WUI is the area where homes and structures are located in wild lands and forests. Because this interface is so susceptible to wildfire it is up to individual homeowners to do the best they can to protect themselves from wildfire.

Defensible space is the law, and is designed to protect firefighters trying to protect your home or fighting the wildfire. But defensible space alone is not enough. And there will not be fire personnel available for everyone.

Your home itself is just fuel to a wildfire. Your home and other structures may ignite no matter how much defensible space you have. Your home may ignite even if there are firefighters present.

Ember storms can travel literally miles from a wildfire. This is how “spotting” occurs, a fire jumping over distances. Your home is not exempt, and your home may not be able to withstand the embers.

The answer is to harden your home. If you harden your home against wildfire, your home may not ignite at all. Then firefighters could spend their time fighting wildfire rather than attempting to defend unprepared homes.

The fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of homes lost to wildfire are ignited by flying embers that land on or in your home or structure.

Many times a domino effect can occur, with the fire jumping from home to home. In some of these cases, the wildfire itself is no longer the threat, but the burning homes become the threat.

Firewise Madera County can help teach you and your neighbors to thoroughly, and effectively, harden your home against wildfire. You should do this long before the inevitable wildfire strikes.

Is your home and community firewise?

Are you ready to evacuate? You, your family, your neighbors? Can your home withstand a wildfire? Can your home withstand embers falling on your roof or flying into your attic from miles away? Yes, from miles away. Embers have been recorded traveling on wildfire convection columns for several miles. If your answer is “No,” or “I don’t know,” then your home is not Firewise.

Successful Firewise homes, homes that are hardened against wildfire, means that your home and surrounding area is prepared for wildfire. Reducing the combustible materials in close proximity on and around your home, while reducing the combustibility of your home itself, prepares your home ignition zone to be able to affect the behavior of any wildfire in a highly desirable way. When done properly, being Firewise severely limits the conditions necessary for combustion, heat, oxygen and fuel, thus limiting the spread of the wildfire and its potential damage to your home and surrounding area.

The fact of the matter is that wildfire isn’t a tsunami like force, a giant wall of living fire, but rather a series of ignitions. That fact, gives you the opportunity to affect how wildfire behaves when approaching your home and surrounding area. Stop the ignitions. Stop the wildfire.

Firewise Means You Are Ready

Being Firewise means you, your family, your home, your home ignition zone, and your neighborhood, are as ready for wildfire as you can be.

You will be fire “wise” if you have created an emergency preparedness plan for you, your family, and community, and practiced that plan so you are all ready.

You will be fire “wise” if your home and home ignition zone has been prepared to withstand wildfire as much as possible, effectively limiting the damage and spread of the wildfire. When you are Firewise, catastrophic wildfires may not be so catastrophic.

Why be ready? Peace of mind

A Firewise home means you will enjoy:

*  Readiness to safely evacuate you and your family at a moment’s notice.

*  Safer and easier evacuation.

*  Potentially saving your precious family memories and heirlooms.

*  Better peace of mind: Knowing you have done all you can to prevent wildfire from claiming your home.

*  Knowing you have provided safer conditions for emergency personnel to help reduce their risk or even provide them with a safe shelter.

*  The confidence that your home has a good chance to survive in the event of a wildfire.

*  Higher probability that emergency personnel will defend your home and community if the resources are available.

*  Higher probability your home will survive if there are no resources to protect your home.

*  A safer neighborhood during wildfire.

*  Potentially lower home insurance rates.

*  Potentially better home financing options.

*  Potentially being able to get insurance when you may not have otherwise

Firewise Starts at Home

Firewise starts with your emergency preparedness plan, and then moves to your home. Again, to a fire, your home is only more fuel to burn.

Firewise mitigation addresses the Home Ignition Zone through various means. Prepare that zone to deny wildfire the conditions of combustion and you will be ready.

Some of the simple steps you can take to get started:

*  Routinely remove debris from your roof.

*  Routinely check gutters for debris & remove the debris.

*  Never stack firewood near your home.

*  Remove flammables from under decks.

*  Keep decks clear of flammables.

*  Move patio furniture & cushions away from your home.

*  Close all openings that may allow embers to enter your attic and home.

*  Replace combustible roofing with noncombustible rated roofing, repair broken shingles, replace vents with ember resistant vents.

*  Replace plastic gutters with metal gutters that can’t burn.

*  Enclose and box in your eaves.

*  Replace vinyl window screens with metal screens.

*  Replace vinyl windows with wood or metal windows.

*  Replace combustible siding with non-combustible siding.

*  Remove combustible materials from direct contact with your home.

*  3 to 5 feet of non-combustible ground completely around your home & structures.

There is no such thing as a safe fire. Even being Firewise, there are no guarantees your home will survive a major fire.

But being Firewise at least you will know you have made every effort to protect you, your family, your home, your community, and emergency personnel, should a wildfire strike.

You will be ready to evacuate everyone safely and easily. And you will leave behind a home and property with the best chance of surviving.

You will have as much peace of mind as there can be regarding wildfire.

Take responsibility and take action

Because there are not enough fire engines to protect every structure, because even herculean efforts don’t always succeed, you have a responsibility to yourself, your family, and your neighbors, to take action to protect your own home and family. Do this well before a wildfire comes to your neighborhood.

So what’s next? Let us help you get Firewise.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Email Roger Maybee at rpmaybee@sti.net with any questions.

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