By Raychel Stewart
For The Signal
While Santa Clarita Valley residents are facing another harsh fire season, it’s never too late to make sure preparations are met to ensure the safety of yourself, loved ones and animals.
An unfortunate combination of high winds, low humidity levels and dry conditions make wildfires an unpredictable disaster. Fire officials say the best way to be prepared in case you need to evacuate is to have everything ready in advance.
“These wildfires have become an annual thing now,” said Sky Cornell, inspector for Los Angeles County Fire Department. “It’s best for people to get prepared in spring before the dry season comes around.”
Homeowners can take small steps that could help circumvent house fires. Cleaning brush around the circumference of your home along with clearing dry or dead trees and bushes can reduce the chance of embers igniting a fire. Cornell recommends having a 200-foot clearance around your house. It’s also important to trim tree branches that hang over roofs so fires aren’t transferred from brush to homes.
Keeping flammable objects away from walls can greatly reduce the chance of starting a house fire, said Cornell. “Things like barbecues and fire pits should be between 15 to 20 feet away from homes.”
It is recommended by the National Fire Protection Association that smoke detectors are installed in every bedroom and level in your home. Fire extinguishers are a crucial item to have in your home, but it is even more important that everyone in the household knows how to properly use one.
An emergency plan can help everyone stay calm and clear-minded if a fire forces evacuations. Families should have an escape route for each room in the house and a meeting place that is a safe distance outside for people to reunite if separated. It’s also important for families to come up with a “buddy system” to help young children, eldery or disabled people exit safely.
When animals need to be evacuated, it’s important to have the necessary supplies to transport them to safety. Smaller animals can be put in cages while larger animals, such as horses, should be placed in trailers and taken to animal rescue stations. Various stations will be set up according to the size of the animal.
If you cannot evacuate pets, Cal Fire suggests to bring them indoors and leave a proper amount of dry food and water. Never chain animals outside.
It’s important to have an emergency kit ready to go that contains important documents such as birth certificates or other forms of identification, house deeds and insurance policies. Emergency kits should also have first-aid items, medication and a list of times to be taken, clothing, non-perishable food and water.
The American Red Cross also recommends having a hand radio and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio in order to keep up with emergency alerts in case cell phone service is unavailable.
If emergency officials announce you must prepare for evacuation, the Fire Department recommends backing cars into driveways for quick exits, keeping windows rolled up and locating your nearest evacuation center before driving away.
Latest information from the Fire Department suggests you should not wait to be told to leave. Use your best judgement. If you feel you and your family should evacuate, do it. Leaving gives firefighters the best chance to protect your home, Cornell said.
The city of Santa Clarita offers a Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) program, in which residents can sign up to receive emergency preparation training. For more information on when CERT classes are offered and what it entails, contact the city of Santa Clarita at 661-259-2489 or visit their webpage at https://www.santa-clarita.com/home
The National Fire Protection Association encourages people to stay up to date with information from local fire departments if you’re in a high-alert area and be prepared to evacuate. Cornell said the Fire Department’s Twitter page is a valuable resource to get live updates on evacuation orders and other emergency information.
For additional tips and resources, visit the NFPA’s wildfire prepardness webpage at https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Wildfire/Wildfire-safety-tips
or the county Fire Department’s “Ready Set Go” webpage at https://www.fire.lacounty.gov/rsg/.
Metro Creative contributed to this report.