Fire season officially started in San Diego County on June 12, but as summer comes to an end, the potential for the dry brush areas of our hillsides to catch fire reaches its peak. California has seen more than 30,000 acres burned by wildfires this year. In San Marcos, the horrific scenes of the 2014 Cocos Fire are still all too fresh in our minds. As fire season reaches its peak this year, it is important to keep in mind several safety tips that can help limit potential disaster should another fire strike.
The vegetation around homes and on hillsides becomes extremely dangerous as it dries out and summer temperatures rise. Defensible space is an area around a structure where fuels and vegetation are treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire towards the structure. Defensible space provides room for firefighters to effectively and safely defend a structure and reduces the chance of a structure fire moving from the building to the surrounding vegetation.
During the Cocos Fire several San Marcos homes were saved because the homeowners had taken the time to clear the brush around their homes. This gave San Marcos Firefighters the ability to set up a safe perimeter to defend the homes as the fire came through. Without that perimeter, the homes would likely have been lost to the fire.
Here are several steps homeowners can take to help protect their properties in the event of another wildfire:
- Maintain 150-feet of defensible space around all structures (100 feet for homes built prior to 2005).
- Clear all needles and leaves from roofs, eaves and rain gutters.
- Trim tree branches to above 6 feet from the ground.
- Use trimming, mowing and power equipment before 10 a.m. to reduce fire potential
- Landscape with fire resistant and drought tolerant plants that require little water.
- Clear branches away from roofs and 10 feet from the chimney.
- Keep wood piles and flammable materials at least 30 feet from the home.
- Keep your property free of accumulated combustibles such as dried vegetation, cuttings, woodpiles and combustible junk.
- Keep roads and driveways well cleared of trees and brush to permit access for fire equipment.
- Clearly mark addresses. Use numbers that contrast in color to background.
- Keep wood fences in good condition. Replace rotten wood.
The San Marcos Fire Department also conducts defensible space inspections to ensure the brush around homes is properly cleared. In the last year, the Department conducted nearly 830 defensible space inspections of properties located in the city’s highest wildfire risk areas. During the defensible space audits, which are conducted free of charge, recommendations on how to improve or maintain defensible space are provided to the homeowner using a checklist and photos based on an inspection of the property. Inspections are conducted only by uniformed fire department personnel. They help educate homeowners on opportunities to minimize risk of wildfire. It is one proactive step the Fire Department is taking to protect help properties.
California is coming off one of its wettest winters in years, which has left hillsides covered in grass and other vegetation. That grass dries out and turns into tinder, providing fuel for rapidly spreading fires. By taking a few simple steps, homeowners can be prepared as fire season ramps up in San Marcos.