Planning for California wildfires

The September 2017 Mission Fire. California wildfires in September and October alone burned more than 245,000 acres.
The September 2017 Mission Fire. California wildfires in September and October alone burned more than 245,000 acres. Sierra Star File Photo

California wildfires in September/October 2017 burned more than 245,000 acres and destroyed and damaged more than 8,700 homes, businesses and properties.

“To this date, it is recorded as the most devastating ever in the state. The attention turns now to the residents who lost or suffered damage to their property,” said Jerry Davies, Chair of the California Fire Safe Council.

According to Janet Ruiz, California Representative of the Insurance Information Institute (III), the debris removal in hardest hit Santa Rosa and other areas has begun. Governor Jerry Brown has authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove visible hazardous debris from wildfire-burned homes, such as batteries, flammable liquids, asbestos siding, paint, and pipe insulation.

Rebuilding will probably begin in the spring of 2018 and take several years.

“Insurance companies are now working with their policyholders in all of the areas devastated by the fires,” Ruiz said. “We are urging all who have losses to work closely with their insurance companies and agents to help with the claims process.”

“As rebuilding begins and others proceed with upgrades to make their homes and businesses safer, we urge the use of an ember-resistant design with proven, noncombustible or fire-resistant materials,” said Steve Quarles, chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.

“Install the materials with an eye toward maintaining an effective mandated 100 foot defensible space on the property,” Quarles continued. “A best practice is a five-foot noncombustible zone around the house, using, for example, rock mulch, a decorative ground cover made of natural, noncombustible stone vs shredded or chipped wood mulch material.

“A six-inch vertical separation between the ground and the start of the siding can reduce the risk of an ember ignition. A Class A fire-rated roof covering that is designed and installed to minimize the likelihood of ignition from embers where the roof meets other parts of the home, such as at a dormer, is a smart decision. We also recommend multi-pane tempered glass windows and 1/8-inch mesh covering on all vents to reduce ember intrusion.”

For further information on reducing wildfire damage to homes and especially roofs, see www.IBHS.Org.

CFSC has learned that Fire Safe Councils in the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Anaheim, Mendocino, Butte, Yuba and the city of Santa Rosa are working with their members in the cleanup efforts. Once cleanup is completed, they are planning fire prevention workshops in their communities to prepare for future fires.

Fire Safe Councils in Nevada County, San Diego and Fallbrook are continuing to conduct fire prevention workshops in November for residents to learn how to become fire-safe and fire-smart and ready for the next fires that happen year-round.

Sources to help homeowners and business owners in the recovery process also include The Redbook Guide to Recovery, www.theredguidetorecovery.com and the American Red Cross.

The trauma from losing a home and all belongings is indescribable. Sandra Younger and her husband lost their home, 12 neighbors and nearly her own life in the 2003 Cedar Fire.

She now speaks and leads personal resilience workshops that promote emotional recovery for disaster survivors and emergency professionals. She can be contacted at: Sandra@SandraYounger.com.

For further information on the California Fire Safe Council and a list of all local Fire Safe Councils in California, visit www.cafiresafecouncil.org.

California Fire Safe Council