During California’s wildfire season, which traditionally lasts from July through October, homeowners need to make sure they are prepared, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California, one of the state’s largest home insurers
“During the worst years of wildfire season, thousands of Southern Californians have experienced the trauma of evacuating their homes and not knowing what they would find when they returned,” said Chris Baggaley, the Auto Club’s senior vice president for insurance. “These disasters make it clear that Southern Californians need to have a disaster preparedness plan in place.”
Auto Club policyholders with wildfire claims can call (800) 67-CLAIM or (800) 672-5246 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Auto Club offers the following tips for families to be ready in case they need to evacuate their home:
- Develop (and practice) an evacuation plan. This should include, when possible, two ways out of each room in the house, two escape routes out of the neighborhood, and an out-of-area location where the family can meet following an evacuation
- Organize important documents, photo albums, and other valuables so they can be easily gathered for a hasty evacuation; have prescription drugs and a computer backup device at hand
- Evacuate pets and anyone who won’t be helping to prepare the home
- Close outside doors and vents
- Close inside doors between rooms
- Shut off gas supplies at the source
- Back the car into the driveway with the windows closed and, if your departure is imminent, with the keys in the ignition; load any valuables you didn’t send away earlier.
Do not delay obeying an evacuation order to pack items in your car, but if you have time prior to an order, the Auto Club recommends placing the following emergency items in your vehicle:
- State and local maps
- Cell phone car charger
- Fully equipped first aid kit
- First aid manual
- Prescription medicine
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable foods (including food for pets)
- Extra clothes and shoes
- Tissues, pre-moistened towels, and toiletries
- Blanket or sleeping bag
- Flashlight with extra batteries and bulb
- Pocket radio and extra batteries
- Small tool kit (screwdriver, pliers, wire, pocket knife, can opener, duct tape)
To reduce the likelihood of fire loss, the Auto Club advises homeowners to:
- Make sure your home is accessible to emergency vehicles. Mark driveway entrances, and post your house number so it can be easily seen.
- When updating your home, select building materials that resist fire. Use fire-resistant or noncombustible material — such as tile, stucco, brick, stone and metal siding — on the structure's exterior, including the roof.
- Clear roof, eaves, and gutters of all debris, such as leaves and branches.
- Remove branches that overhang the roof.
- Identify an adequate outside water source — such as a hydrant, pond or swimming pool — that can be used in an emergency to combat the wildfire.
- Keep a garden hose that is long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property.
- Consider installing fire sprinklers inside your home.
- Do not store firewood against the home or other structures. Stack firewood at least 30 feet from your house.
Dried vegetation is the major fuel for wildfires. To protect your property, the Auto Club advises:
- When landscaping, plant fire-resistant trees and shrubs and ground cover (hardwood trees and ice plant, for example) to reduce the spread of fire. This will make it less likely for plants to catch fire and spread the fire closer to your home.
- Create a safety zone at least 30 feet from all structures by removing all flammable vegetation.
- Remove all vines from your home and structures. Even live and healthy vines can spread fire very rapidly.
- Regularly mow and water all lawns.
- Keep your property free of debris, such as leaves, fallen branches and twigs. This will help reduce fire fuel.
- Trim trees regularly and remove all dead branches. Keep limbs trimmed so that they do not come in contact with electrical wires and are at least 15 feet from the chimney.
- Have a professional tree service remove the limbs of mature, full-size trees within six to 10 feet from the ground. Also, thin the crowns.