Fire is, and always has been, a natural occurrence in California. Brush-covered hills, canyons and forests burned periodically long before we built homes there. Wildfires, fueled by a build-up of dry vegetation and driven by seasonal hot, dry winds, are extremely dangerous and impossible to control. However, homes have been built and landscaped without fully understanding the impact a fire could have on them, and few have adequately prepared their families for a quick evacuation. The past few years have shown all Californians must be prepared for wildfire. Successfully preparing for a wildfire requires you to take personal responsibility for protecting yourself, your family and your property. This site is an effort to give you some tips and tools to help you to better prepare for wildfire.
If you live next to a natural area, the Wildland Urban Interface, you must provide firefighters with the defensible space they need to protect your home. The buffer zone you create by removing weeds, brush and other vegetation helps to keep the fire away from your home and reduces the risks from flying embers. Defensible space is the space between a structure and the wildland area that, under normal conditions, creates a sufficient buffer to slow or halt the spread of wildfire to a structure. It protects the home from igniting due to direct flame or radiant heat. Defensible space is essential for structure survivability during wildfire conditions.
Recent wildfires across the state reinforce the importance of preparedness. When a wildfire strikes, seconds count. If you live near the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), you must be prepared to evacuate at all times during fire-season.
EVACUATION WHAT TO TAKE AND DO:
WHEN TO EVACUATE
- Leave as soon as evacuation is recommended by fire officials to avoid being caught in fire, smoke or road congestion. Don’t wait to be ordered by authorities to leave. Evacuating the forest fire area early also helps firefighters keep roads clear of congestion, and lets them move more freely to do their job. In an intense wildfire, they will not have time to knock on every door. If you are advised to leave, don’t hesitate!
- Officials will determine the areas to be evacuated and escape routes to use depending upon the fire’s location, behavior, winds, terrain, etc.
- Law enforcement agencies are typically responsible for enforcing an evacuation order. Follow their directions promptly.
- You will be advised of potential evacuations as early as possible. You must take the initiative to stay informed and aware. Listen to your radio/TV for announcements from law enforcement and emergency personnel.
- You may be directed to temporary assembly areas to await transfer to a safe location.
- Do not return to your home until fire officials determine it is safe. Notification that it is safe to return home will be given as soon as possible considering safety and accessibility.
WHEN YOU RETURN HOME:
- Be alert for downed power lines and other hazards.
- Check propane tanks, regulators, and lines before turning gas on.
- Check your residence carefully for hidden embers or smoldering fires.
Find additional resources using the links below:
North County Fire Authority Homepage
NCFA Ready, Set Go Wildfire Safety Plan
Zonehaven Know Your Zone - Evacuation Management Platform
Fire Safe San Mateo County - Resources on Living with Fire
Register for SMC Alerts
NCFA Ready, Set, Go! Video
Homeowners Fire Insurance - What You Need to Know