Get Smart – Be Firewise

At the recent fire insurance meeting in Graeagle, Firewise community coordinator Chuck Bowman, announced that Graeagle and Mohawk Valley area residents could sign up for a free Firewise home consultation. Bowman and his fellow volunteers will come out to your property and point out what you need to do to reduce wildfire risk in your home ignition zone.

You can’t go wrong having the Graeagle Firewise group come out to your house. They’ll see vital things you need to do that you didn’t notice. And, they’ll reassure you that quite a few things are just fine as is. There’s no shame in the fact that you haven’t raked those needles in awhile, or that you didn’t know your favorite juniper bush will explode like someone tossed a match into a gasoline can during a fire.

The Firewise group is non-judgmental; they just want to help. You’ll have several advantages besides making your home less vulnerable if you follow their advice. It may help you keep or get home insurance. And, interestingly, it will make it more likely that a fire crew stretched to the limit will choose your house as one they can safely defend and save.

So, buckle up. The rest of this information is pretty detailed – but it’s detail that could save your home, and your family and pets’ lives. Also, for those of us who tend to put things off, recent devastating fires such as those in Paradise and Santa Rosa prove that there’s no time for procrastination when it comes to fire protection.

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Your Home

To reduce the risk of your home going up in flames in a wildfire, experts break the work up into zones. The most important zone is your house and the first 5 feet around it.

Using “ignition resistant” materials for the house, removing debris and removing or using only fire resistant vegetation in that first 5 feet is key. Wildfires, typically, get in or under a house and destroy it from within.

Check and clear accumulated debris and stored flammables underneath decks and porches, in carports, around foundations, chimneys, vents and eaves, and in gutters. Place 1/8-inch metal mesh screening over spaces under decks and porches, and over vents in eves, foundations and crawl spaces.

A solid concrete foundation under a manufactured home is ideal. Double paned, tempered glass should be used in all windows and sliding glass doors.

Gutters should be metal if possible, and they should be checked regularly for build up of pine needles and other debris. Roofs should be of fire resistant materials such as composite shingles, metal or cement tile and clay. Make sure gaps between roofing material is filled.

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Fire resistant siding should be caulked in any gaps where debris, and also embers, can get in. Keep your roof clean especially near vents, and keep tree limbs 10 feet away from the roof if possible.

The first five feet

Clear all pine needles, leaves and debris. Look for crevices and places around rocks, for instance, where debris collects. Ideally, use hardscaping rather than plants or wood mulch in this area. Wood mulch contains highly combustible resins. Alternatives such as rock, gravel, DG or crushed stone are great options.

If you have plants right next to the house, choose succulents or plants that have a very high water content. As much as possible cut tree limbs back from this area. Remember dry, resinous, or high sap content plants and trees are most dangerous. For fire resistant landscaping, see: www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/get-ready/fire-resistant-landscaping/.

5-30 feet from your home

Clear vegetation and debris from under and around propane tanks. Keep lawns and grasses mowed.

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Wildfires climb up ladder fuels and once they reach the crowns of trees, they’ll jump from crown to crown. This also can burn hot enough to shatter the windows in your home allowing fire to enter.

Limb mature trees 6 to 10 feet. The lower limbs of smaller trees should be pruned if possible. Ideally, crowns should be 18 feet apart. Water all trees and plants regularly to increase their moisture content.

Other important considerations

Make sure you have a reflective number plate on your home that is easily read by fire fighters. Graeagle Fire Department has these available for $20 to Graeagle and Mohawk Valley area residents. Call 836-1340 for more information.

Have a driveway that’s wide enough, and with no overhanging trees, so that fire personnel can get to your home. If your house is close to the street or if you have a circular driveway, even better.

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During times of high fire danger, remove flammable cushions on deck furniture, and use fire resistant/rubber doormats.

Near your home, put plants that aren’t fire resistant and flowers in pots that can be moved away from the house in a fire emergency.

Help your firefighters help you by connecting hoses and filling pools, trashcans, hot tubs, etc., with water.

Close all home openings including attic and basement doors and vents, windows, garage doors and pet doors.

Evacuation plan

Make sure you have a plan for your animals, and get them in carriers or in the car ahead of time. Plan who will transport your horses and livestock to safety, and/or note all safe areas where they can be released. Practice loading and unloading if possible. Have a back up plan that includes painting your phone number on their sides if you have to let them go.

Note two different escape routes from your neighborhood in case you have to evacuate. And, if you feel a fire threatening your home, don’t wait for an evacuation call — get out.

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Sign up for Code Red emergency notification by registering at www.plumascounty.us/. The service works for cell phones, landlines, unlisted numbers and email.

Graeagle Fire Dept. has Graeagle and vicinity evacuation route maps available at the Graeagle Fire Station.

Prepare a family evacuation and communication plan. Have an emergency supply kit ready.

Look for a separate article on vital evacuation steps in an upcoming issue of this newspaper.

Get a Firewise consultation now

In Graeagle and the Mohawk Valley area, call the Graeagle Fire Department at 836-1340.