California Wildfires

Sixty Minutes of Work or Six Weeks Sifting Through the Ashes? Reducing the Spread of Wildfires

Here are a few guidelines for creating a defensible space to help reduce the spread of wildfires.

A fire prevention crew hauls away sections of a tree
Matthew Brown/AP

With recent rains and temperatures spiking, we can expect significant growth of light flashy fuels that burn quickly during Southern California's wildfires. This is early evidence that shows we are looking at another significant and early wildfire season.

Now is the time to get a head start on clearing your property before things really heat up. It makes more sense cleaning and clearing your property for an hour or so than to spend weeks sifting through the ashes of a burned out home.

Here are a few guidelines for creating a defensible space to help reduce the spread of wildfires. Again, be sure to check with your local and state authorities for specific regulations in your area.

  • Remove dead and overhanging branches.
  • Remove any branches within 10 feet of a chimney vent.
  • Clean all dead leaves and needles from the roof and gutters.
  • Install a roof that meets the fire resistance classification of Class C or better.
  • Cover chimney outlet with a nonflammable screen spark arrestor.
  • Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from all structures, fences and other combustible material.
  • Remove all stacks of construction materials, pine needles, leaves and other debris.
  • Keep lawn chairs, umbrellas and other canvas furniture a safe distance away from structures.
  • Clear all vegetation and other combustible or flammable materials from beneath the deck area.
  • Enclose underside of elevated decks with resistant materials.
  • Refrain from dumping lawn clippings in canyons.
  • Identify at least two exit routes from your neighborhood.
  • Make sure street names and house numbers are clearly visible.
  • Designate an emergency meeting place outside your neighborhood.
  • Immediately evacuate the area when ordered by police or fire personnel.

Contact your local fire department for additional information on hillside vegetation management in your area and visit here for more preparation advice.

Sam DiGiovanna is a 35-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale.

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