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Wildland Fires

Fallbrook is surrounded by beautiful foothills and scenic areas. However, many of these areas are categorized by the State of California as a high risk fire zone. The years in which we receive less than normal rainfall make this risk a severe one.
 
We encourage Fallbrook residents to consider individual preparedness, especially if living in an area subject to wildland fire. In addition to preparing your property and home by providing defensible space, you should be prepared to evacuate. As with any disaster, you should have an evacuation plan for your family and have important documents, personal items, and medications ready to take with you. Plan ahead, as you may receive very little notice during a fast-moving fire. Do not risk your life and that of firefighters by delaying during an evacuation situation!
 

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR HOME

Step 1: Get Fire Insurance

Your homeowners insurance covers damages from fires. You may think whatever standard coverage your insurance company offers is enough, but do you know exactly what your policy covers? FreeAdvice Legal explains that fire insurance policies typically have four coverage areas:
The primary dwelling (your house).
Other structures, such as sheds, swimming pools, pool houses, or detached garages.
Personal property, or your personal belongings, such as clothes, furniture, jewelry, paintings, and other items that aren’t part of the dwelling. Belongings that have not been valued and are not specifically listed in the policy are typically covered based on a standard value, which may be substantially less than the actual value. It’s worth getting your heirloom jewelry, cherished paintings, and other valuables appraised and making sure they’re listed in your policy.
Loss of use or additional living expenses. This coverage area includes expenses such as a stay in a hotel (and boarding fees for your pets) while your home is repaired or rebuilt, clothing, food, and other typical costs of living. Keep track of your expenses during this time, but keep in mind that your policy may have a ceiling on the amount of coverage provided.
It’s a good idea to take an inventory of your home and belongings now, before it’s too late and you’re faced with damages from a forest fire or other disaster. Keep a copy in a secure location, such as a safety deposit box. If you find items of value over the standard insurance company values, talk to your agent about getting additional coverage.
 

Step 2: Clear Combustible Debris from Your Property

Treating, clearing, or reducing natural and man-made fuels to slow the spread of fire is known as creating defensible space. Creating ample defensible space reduces the likelihood that a fire on your property will spread to the forest or other homes surrounding your home.
Keep dry grass, stacks of firewood, brush, and other combustible debris at least 30 feet away from your home; that distance should be increased to 50 feet if you live in a heavily wooded area, and 100 feet if you live in California or if your home is on a hillside. If you live in an area particularly prone to forest fires or wildfires, you should also consider removing or replacing wooden fences and decks – or at least treating them to reduce the risk.

Step 3: Use Defensible Space Management Zones Wisely

Defensible space can be broken down into three categories:
Zone 1: The area immediately surrounding your home and other structures.
Zone 2: A transitional area for fuel reduction between Zone 1 and Zone 3.
Zone 3: This zone extends from the edge of Zone 2 to your property boundaries, and is the area farthest from your home.
There are certain things you can do in these zones to protect your home from forest fires and even direct the spread of fire around your home, such as:
  • Introduce more native vegetation.
  • Use non-flammable ground cover in the area surrounding your home, but leaving about five feet of space clear around your house and deck.
  • Keep trees spaced at least 10 feet apart.
  • Keep your trees and shrubs pruned, and immediately remove dead or dying trees, bushes, and branches from your defensible space.
  • Keep branches trimmed so that they don’t extend over your roof or near your chimney.
  • Clean your roof, gutters, and eaves regularly to free them of debris.
  • If you have pine trees on your property, keep your lawn free of needles by cleaning them up regularly (yes, this is a monumental task).
  • Store all flammable liquids only in approved metal cans.
  • Store firewood and storage tanks a minimum of 50 feet away from your home. Keep an area of at least 10 feet surrounding them clear.
  • Regularly maintain your irrigation system.
  • Avoid using the space under your deck for storage, particularly for things like lawn mowers and fuel.
Step 4: Reduce Structural Ignitability
 
Minimizing structural ignitability is best achieved during the home design and building process. Fortunately, there are some ways you can reduce structural ignitability in an existing home as well. If you’re replacing your roof, choose a fire-resistant roofing material (with a Class C rating or higher), particularly if your home is situated near grasslands or in a wooded area. If you’re building a home or giving your home’s exterior a fresh look, avoid materials such as wood, which are flammable.
Other steps you can take to reduce structural ignitability include:
  • Installing spark arresters in your chimneys.
  • Applying non-combustible screening to vent and eave openings.
  • Using fire-resistant materials to cover the exterior of your home, such as stucco, brick, or stone. Use a low- or non-flammable underlayment, if possible.
  • Opting for tempered or double-paned glass for windows.
  • Installing non-combustible shutters and replace window coverings with heat-resistant options.
  • Enclosing the underside of decks with fire-resistant materials.
  • Using treated wood or another flame-resistant material to box in eaves, soffits, fascias, and subfloors to reduce vent sizes.
Be diligent about choosing materials with a low flame-spread index.

Step 5: Create a Disaster Plan

Even if you’ve taken every possible precaution to safeguard your home from forest fires, there is still a chance that your home could succumb to flames. That’s why your family should be prepared with an evacuation plan. Identify multiple escape routes from your home, ensuring that there are at least two possible escape routes from every bedroom, if possible.

Select a meeting location for all family members to meet after escaping from the property. This meeting location should be at a sufficient distance to keep everyone safe from the fire, but not so far away that it’s difficult for family members to get to in a panic.

You should also prepare an emergency kit containing first aid supplies and essentials to get your family through a few days, including:

  • A battery-powered NOAA weather radio
  • Extra batteries
  • A cell phone charger and/or portable power bank
  • A flashlight
  • Blankets
  • Bottled water (3 gallons per person)
  • Prescription medications (enough to last for 2-3 days)
  • Non-perishable food (3-day supply)
  • Medical supplies (enough to last for 2-3 days)
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Copies of important documents
  • A change of clothing
  • An extra pair of eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
  • A spare set of keys to your vehicles and house
Having an extra kit to store in the trunk of your car can be a lifeline in an emergency.
It’s not enough to have an escape plan to get out of your home safely. In the event of a wildfire, you’ll likely need to evacuate the area entirely. Find out what the evacuation routes are from your local authorities, map them out, and ensure that all family members are aware of the designated routes. It’s not uncommon for roads to be closed or impassible, so you should plan several alternative routes. Have a plan for getting in contact with other family members once you’re safe in the event that you become separated.
 
As frightening as it may be to contemplate leaving your home, it is better to take steps now than be caught unprepared. At the bottom are links to helpful websites and downloadable documents that will assist in your preparedness efforts.
 
 
Wildland Fires - Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce - Wildfire_graphic

EVACUATION TIPS:

  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Know your evacuation route ahead of time and prepare an evacuation checklist and emergency supplies.
  • Wear protective clothing and footwear to protect yourself from flying sparks and ashes.

BEFORE YOUR LEAVE, PREPARE YOUR HOUSE:

  • Remove combustibles, including firewood, yard waste, barbecue grills, and fuel cans, from your yard.
  • Close all windows, vents, and doors to prevent a draft.
  • Shut off natural gas, propane, or fuel oil supplies.
  • Fill any large vessels—pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, or tubs—with water to slow or discourage fire.

IF CAUGHT IN A WILDFIRE:

  • Don't try to outrun the blaze. Instead, look for a body of water such as a pond or river to crouch in.
  • If there is no water nearby, find a depressed, cleared area with little vegetation, lie low to the ground, and cover your body with wet clothing, a blanket, or soil. Stay low and covered until the fire passes.
  • Protect your lungs by breathing air closest to the ground, through a moist cloth, if possible, to avoid inhaling smoke.

 
Fallbrook, Bonsall, DeLuz and Rainbow Area Evacuation Routes:
 
Wildland Fire Safety Guidelines:
 
Fire, Defensible Space and You:
 
Ready, Set, Go! Evacuation Guide:
 
 
CalFire website:
 
FireWise website:
 
 
 
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