Fire Safe Homes
Central Calaveras Fire and Rescue Protection District
YOU ARE AT RISK!
California-with rugged mountains and rolling foothills, majestic forest and green valleys, dry summers and mild winters-is the home and vacation destination of millions of people. But these qualities, which create wonderful views and peaceful living environment, also create the most severe wildfire conditions in the world!
Each year, thousands of acres of California wildland and hundreds of homes are destroyed during a fire season that lasts from May to October- and in some areas all year long.
Many people don’t realize that they face such wildfire danger. But if you live in the foothills, grasslands, or mountains of California, YOU ARE AT RISK!
Making this problem even worse is the growing population in wildland areas surrounding California’s major cities. As a result, more homes are destroyed and lives are threatened by wildfire every year.
When the strong winds and hot dry days of summer lead to wildfires, don’t expect a fire engine to park in front of your home to protect your family and possessions. There just aren’t enough firefighters to protect every home in the state. In a matter of minutes, a wildfire can jump from a burning hillside, race through your subdivision and destroy your home and your neighborhood.
To protect your family, possessions and home, follow the steps outlined to make your residence “Fire Safe”.
To be Fire Safe you must carry out certain fire protection measure “BEFORE” a fire even starts.
MAKE SURE EMERGENCY PERSONNEL CAN LOCATE YOUR HOME
The first few minutes of a fire are the most critical for saving your home when threatened by wildfire. Firefighting personnel must be able to immediately locate and safely travel to your home to have a chance to protect it.
Street signs and house addresses must clearly posted, and roads must be able to accommodate busy traffic. While fire engines and other emergency equipment are trying to drive into your area, you must be able to escape in your car with your family and valuable personal possessions.
Street Signs and Addresses:
Proper identification of your home is essential. Remember, during a major wildfire, firefighters from throughout the state arrive to assist local firefighters, and they will rely on clear street signs and addresses to find your home.
Your street name and address should be printed in reflective letters and numbers that are at least 4 inches tall on a contrasting color and reflective background. They should be made of fire resistant materials and visible from all directions of travel for at least 150 feet.
Each of the streets and roads in your area should be labeled, and each should have a different name or number. In addition, your home should have its own house number, which should be in numerical order along your street or road.
If your house is set back from the street or road, post your address at the entrance of your driveway. In situations where more than one home is accessed off a single driveway, all addresses should be posted at the street and each appropriate intersection along that driveway.
Access to Your House:
Even if your street and house are clearly identified for firefighters, precious time can be lost if they have difficulty getting to your house. Narrow roads, dead-end streets, steep driveways and weak bridges can delay firefighters or prevent them from arriving at all. REMEMBER, fire apparatus are much larger & heavier than your family car or truck.
Road and street signs systems must be planned and designed to provide safe emergency evacuations and fire department access. A minimum of 2 primary access roads should be designed into every subdivision and development.
All private and public streets should be designed and constructed to provide 2 traffic lanes, each a minimum of 9 feet wide-just enough space for a fire engine and car to pass each other. Curves and intersections should also be wide enough to allow fire apparatus easy passage and turnaround.
Roads, driveways and bridges should be built to carry at least 40,000 lbs., which is the average weight of a fire engine (By comparison, the average family station wagon weighs 4,000 lbs.) Also, streets and driveways must not be too steep or have sharp curves, which can prevent emergency equipment from arriving to protect your home.
Additional Fire Safe Steps:
Every dead-end street or long driveway should have a turnaround area designed as either a “T” or a circle large enough to allow fire equipment to turn around. Single-lane ,one-way roads and driveways should have turnouts constructed within sight of each other or at regular distances apart.
You can also improve your chances for safety by clearing away flammable vegetation at least 10 feet from all roads and at least 5 feet from driveways. If possible, cut back and prune vegetation even more than these distances, and make sure that trees and shrubs are widely spaced. Also, cut back any overhanging tree branches above the road. This will provide yourself, evacuating neighbors and arriving firefighters with even greater protection.
Each of these steps will give firefighters a chance to find and protect your home. A delay of only a few minutes can mean the difference between saving your home and losing it.
Fire Safety Inside Your Home:
Smoke detectors have saved many lives, and may save yours. More than 50% of fatal residential fires take place at night when people are sleeping. If fire starts while your family is asleep, smoke detectors will wake you up. They can make the difference between life and death in a fire emergency.
Position smoke detectors on the ceiling just outside each bedroom. If you have multi-level home, install a detector on every level. If you sleep with your bedroom door closed, place an additional detector inside your bedroom.
Before you buy a smoke detector, make sure it is listed and approved by an independent testing laboratory and the State Fire Marshal. Read instructions carefully to find out exactly how and where to install it. Be sure to test your smoke detector each month and change its batteries at least once a year, easily done when you reset your clocks for daylight savings time changes.
Portable Fire Extinguishers
Portable fire extinguishers, when used properly and under the right conditions, can save lives and property by helping you put out or contain small fires, until the fire department arrives.
Be sure they are listed and approved by an independent testing laboratory and the State Fire Marshal.
Extinguishers are identified by the type of fire on which they can be used:
A- Wood or cloth type fires-
B- Flammable liquid type fires-
C- Electrical type fires-
D- Flammable metal type fires-
Make sure that each member of your family can hold and operate the fire extinguisher and knows where it is located. They should be mounted in easy-to-get-to-places. Remember that fire extinguishers need annual maintenance and must be recharged after every use.
Plan Your Escape:
It is important that all family members know what to do in an emergency. Even with an early warning from a smoke detector, escaping a fire can be difficult or impossible. Fire can spread very rapidly, blocking exits and creating dangerous, smoky conditions.
Smoke is your enemy! Even a few breaths of smoke and toxic gases can choke and kill you. If you become trapped in smoke, crawl low and keep your head down-cleaner air is near the floor.
Contact your neighbors and local authorities to pre-plan community emergency procedures, such as standard escape routes and common meeting places, it is helpful to develop a community alert system that can be used during emergencies. With an alert system, anyone who spots an emergency will know how to react so that your neighborhood will be notified in time to respond.
Take These Steps to Plan Your Escape:
Draw a floor plan of your home and mark all possible escape routes. Make sure you know two safe ways out of every room, especially the bedrooms.
Prepare a list, and keep together, all valuables to take with you in an emergency.
Young, elderly and disabled persons may need assistance. Their rooms should be located as close to an exit as possible. Train the rest of your family to help them out in an emergency.
Everyone should close doors behind them to slow the spread of fire, smoke and heat.
Decide on an outside meeting place to assemble your family and to make sure everyone is out.
PRACTICE ESCAPE! Conduct home fire drills, varying them to prepare for difficult fire situations. You may be blinded by smoke, so try practicing your escape plan with your eyes closed.
In The Event of a Fire, Remember the Following:
Before you exit your room, feel the door. If it’s hot, don’t open it-use your second way out.
If smoke, heat or flames block your escape routes, stay in the room with the door closed.
Stuff sheets, blankets or towels in cracks around the door and around heating and air-conditioning vents to keep smoke and fumes out.
If no smoke is coming in, open a window to hang out a bright sheet or cloth to signal for help.
If there is a telephone in the room, dial 9-1-1 and tell emergency dispatcher where you are.
If your clothes catch fire: STOP, DROP & ROLL!
What To Do When You Are Threatened By Wildfire:
First, if you see a fire approaching, report it immediately by calling 9-1-1
Remember to stay on the telephone to answer additional questions the dispatcher may ask.
Next, dress properly to prevent burns and lifelong scars. Wear long pants and cotton or wool long-sleeved shirts or jackets. Gloves and a damp cloth, provide added protection. Do not wear short-sleeved shirts or clothing made of synthetic fabrics. If there is time before the fire arrives, take the following actions:
Preparing to Evacuate:
Park your vehicle in the garage, heading out, with windows closed and keys in the ignition.
Close the garage door but leave it unlocked, disconnecting the automatic garage door opener in case of power failure.
Place valuable documents, family mementos and pets inside the car in the garage for quick departure, if necessary.
If you do evacuate, use your pre-planned route, away from the approaching fire front.
Keep a flashlight, portable radio and spare batteries with you at all times.
If you are trapped by fire while evacuating in your vehicle, park in an area clear of vegetation, close all vehicle windows and vents, cover yourself with a blanket or jacket and lie on the floor.
If you are trapped by fire while evacuating on foot, select an area clear of vegetation along a road, or lie in a road ditch, covering exposed skin with a jacket or blanket. Avoid canyons that can concentrate and channel fire.
Outside Your Home:
Move combustible yard furniture away from the house or store in the garage; if it catches fire while outside, the added heat could ignite your house.
Cover windows, attic openings, eave vents and sub-floor vents with fire resistive material such as ½ inch or thicker plywood. This will eliminate the possibility of sparks blowing into hidden areas within the house. Close window shutters if they are fire resistive.
Attach garden hoses to spigots and place them so they can reach any area of your house. Fill trashcans and buckets with water and locate them where firefighters can find them.
If you have an emergency generator or portable gasoline-powered pump that will supply water from a swimming pool, pond, well or tank, mark its location and have it ready to operate.
Place a ladder against the house on the side opposite the fire to help firefighters get on your roof.
Place a lawn sprinkler on flammable roofs, but don’t turn it on unless the fire is an immediate threat. You do not want to reduce the supply of water for the firefighters.
Close all windows and doors to prevent sparks from blowing inside; close interior doors to slow down fire spread from room to room.
Turn on a light in each room of your house, on the porch and in the yard making the house more visible in heavy smoke or darkness.
Fill sinks, bathtubs and buckets with water. Shut off LPG or natural gas valves.
Move furniture away from windows and sliding glass doors to keep it from igniting from the heat of fire radiating through windows.
Remove your curtains and drapes. If you have metal blinds or special fire resistive window coverings close them to block heat radiation.
If You Stay In Your House When A Fire Approaches:
Stay inside your house, away from outside walls. Close all doors, but leave them unlocked.
Keep your entire family together and remain calm. REMEMBER: If it gets hot in the house, it is many times hotter and more dangerous outside.
After The Fire Passes:
Check the roof immediately, extinguishing all sparks and embers. If you must climb onto the roof, use caution, especially if it is wet.
Check inside the attic for hidden burning embers. Check your yard for burning woodpiles, trees, fence posts or other materials.
Keep the doors and windows closed.
Continue rechecking your home and yard for burning embers for at least 12 hours.
Your Emergency Water Supply:
If you live in a house that is separated from others you may not have access to an adequate community water system. In this case, you will need to develop an individual well or water source that provides suitable storage and fire equipment access.
A minimum water storage supply of 2,500 gallons is recommended for use in emergency situations; roughly equal to the average above ground pool, 10 feet in diameter. Storage facilities may include above or below ground tanks, swimming pools, perennial streams or ponds.
Cooperation with your neighbors can result in the development of a common emergency water storage facility that can provide protection for your house and several others.
Access To Emergency Water Supply:
Once you have established an emergency water supply, you must make sure firefighters can get to it. If your water comes from a well, it is recommended that you have a gasoline-powered generator so firefighters can operate your pump during a power failure.
For any emergency water supply, the outlet valve must be easily seen and visibly signed from the nearest road. You can obtain specific outlet, valve design and thread requirements by contacting your local fire department.