JULY 2017 – Fire season in San Diego typically begins around October; however, if you’ve seen the news recently, you know that fire warnings are already in effect. Severe drought conditions followed by monumental rain has led to tall grass and overgrown shrubs that become kindling for wildfires in the summer. In early June, there was a brush off of the 8 East that burned 13 acres, and in July there was another one off the 8, now being called the Jennings Fire, that burned 400 acres.
San Diego has been no stranger to extreme wildfires in the last several years. The Cedar Fire in 2003 burned an estimated 273,246 acres, and destroyed 2,232 residences as well as 22 commercial buildings. In 2007, San Diego experienced the Witch Creek Fire, which started in Santa Ysabel, and burned nearly 198,000 acres along with destroying 1,125 residential structures. The Harris Fire was also started in 2007 and burned over 90,000 acres, destroying 253 residential structures.
What Causes Wildfires?
Wildfires are natural occurrences that often encourage plant and tree re-growth, as well as naturally ridding forests of dead and dying plant matter. They can also wreak havoc, as mentioned, when a fire does not occur for years or decades, and suddenly one comes barreling through hundreds of pounds of dry under-brush.
Although most of these San Diego area fires were started by some type of human involvement, they ultimately blew out of proportion because of unmanaged brush in open and rural areas. Many properties were also destroyed due to a lack of defensible space.
There are several preventative measures you can take to protect your home and property prior to a wildfire occurring. Understanding how wildfires happen and the course they often take will help you plan and prepare to protect yourself and your family.
We have put together a few suggestions and resources to help you prepare for fire season and make sure your property meets fire safety requirements.
How to Prevent Wildfires and Protect your Property – Three Important Fire Safety Tips
1. Create Defensible Space
Dried brush helps advance the speed of wildfires. After the Cedar Fire, it was noted that many homes did not have adequate defensible space around them to help fire fighters protect the property. Defensible space is defined as the area around a structure where combustible vegetation that can spread fire has been cleared, reduced or replaced.
Keeping this space maintained helps to act as a barrier between the fire and the structure. Clearing the space doesn’t mean removing all aspect of plant life, but rather maintaining what is there and pruning any trees in order to reduce the likelihood of spreading wildfires.
State law requires that you have at least a 100-ft radius of defensible space around any structure on your property. Creating a defensible space also includes not having fire wood stacked near your home. The best place for this is at least 50 ft away from any structure. If you have common areas of brush between you and your neighbors, it is advised that you work together to clear and maintain the space.
2. Plant Fire-Resistant Vegetation
There are several plants and trees, native and non-native, to California and San Diego that are naturally fire resistant, and do well in our climate. They can act as a great defense barrier for your home; however, it is important to note that no plant is completely fire resistant.
These plants are drought tolerant and essentially able to survive only on natural rainfall after they have adapted to the environment (i.e. you brought them in, planted and watered them, rather than them naturally springing up on your property).
Some great native bush options are California Lilac, Manzanita, Sage, Elderberry, Mojave Yucca, and Coast Barrel Cactus. For a full list of fire-resistant plant options, you can visit County of San Diego, Department of Planning and Land Use.
3. Have a Fire Evacuation Plan
If you live in the outlying areas of towns like Jamul, Alpine, Lakeside, or Escondido, keep yourself updated on the events of wildfires as well as what the fire danger is. Even if you live in a more densely populated area of these towns, a fast-moving wildfire won’t be stopped by a sudden influx of structures rather than open fields.
Have a plan for you and your family, as well as any animals you may have, in case there is a mandatory evacuation. Also, be ready for reverse 911 calls stating that an evacuation for your area is in place. The reverse 911 system is not perfect, and police often drive through areas alerting people of the need to evacuate immediately. Having a plan in place will help prevent confusion and chaos in the event of an emergency evacuation.
Where to Get More Information about Wildfire Safety and Prevention
“Failing to plan is planning to fail”. It’s always easy to think that something like this won’t affect you, however we all probably know someone in San Diego who was affected by one of these fires. There are plenty of resources available for you to make sure you are ready when a fire does occur.
For more information on fire prevention and what you can do to protect your home, we recommend visiting Ready San Diego, San Diego County Zoning Ordinances, and Fire Safe SD County. To register for alerts, you can visit Alert San Diego.
To schedule a brush management consultation, you can call our office at 619-579-9151, or visit our contact page with a request for more information.