As temperatures continue to rise, vegetation slowly dries out, add in the drought conditions we are experiencing this year, and the danger of a major wildfire increases. This year, California has already seen an estimated 15,458 acres burned – 650 of those being from the North Fire that spread throughout the hills of Valencia in April. The top five largest fires in our state’s history have taken place in the past five years — illustrating the increase in dangerous and destructive blazes. These frightening statistics demonstrate the importance of fire safety education and prevention to safeguard our residents and their properties.
In Santa Clarita, we want to take a proactive approach to fire season by ensuring our residents can be prepared in the event of an evacuation and as a city to support the heroes of the Los Angeles County Fire Department and law enforcement. To protect your home from a fire: start by regularly maintaining your property and removing any dead leaves, dry brush or vegetation in your backyard or within 30 feet of your home. A buildup of dry debris can leave your home vulnerable to even the smallest of sparks. Residents are encouraged to create “fuel breaks” and “fire breaks” around their homes. This means creating gravel pathways or having a bed of drought-resistant plants. By creating a defensible space, you are helping to not only keep your home safe but also your neighbors’ homes!
Moving to the inside of your home: Check and maintain your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors monthly. Make sure you have a smoke detector in each room or zone of your house. Replacing the batteries twice a year is an easy, quick and potentially life-saving activity. Keep a working fire extinguisher on hand, and make sure that everyone in your family is trained on how to use one. Remember, use the acronym P.A.S.S. — Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle, Squeeze the handle and Sweep side to side at the base of the fire.
Heat from wildfires can cause windows to break before the home even ignites. Dual-paned windows with an exterior pane of tempered glass can reduce the chance of breakage during a fire.
Once you have assessed all possible prevention in and around your home, begin to create your personal wildfire action plan or “Ready! Set! Go!” Have important phone numbers on hand in case of separation or if you need to communicate with your family members. Assemble an emergency supply kit that you can keep in your car in the event you cannot return to your home, and have a kit near an exit of your home in case of evacuations. Along with your emergency supply kit, remember to bring insurance papers, prescriptions, important documents and photos in the event of an evacuation.
And finally, have an emergency evacuation plan. Designate a meeting location outside the fire or hazard area and have alternate travel routes to that location. During emergencies, we want to give as much space as possible to our firefighters and law enforcement in order for them to do their jobs and protect our residents and properties. Please abide by any road closures or mandatory evacuation warnings, as your safety is our main priority. Don’t forget about your furry family members. Make sure you are prepared to evacuate your pets and have their food and other necessary supplies ready to go.
As we move into fire season, I ask each of you to take time to practice fire safety tips to keep yourself and our community safe during a wildfire emergency. If you would like to learn more about the “Ready! Set! Go!” plan or download your own personal wildfire action plan, go to fire.LACounty.gov/RSG. For emergency updates or to sign up for the city of Santa Clarita’s Nixle Alerts, go to santaclaritaemergency.com.
Marsha McLean is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected].