Southern California wildfires raise concerns for community safety

Published on May 5, 2013
Firewise tips help California residents reduce their homes’ risk from wildfire

May 5, 2013 – The recent Springs Fire in Ventura County near Malibu, on the Pacific Coast, highlights the threats to homes and property from wildfire in communities across California. Driven by windy, dry conditions, the fire has burned close to 8,000 acres and many homes and commercial properties remain under threat.

East of Los Angeles, the Summit Fire near the towns of Banning and Beaumont, has burned nearly 3,000 acres, while other areas across the state continue to experience red-flag warnings. In 2012, California experienced nearly 8,000 fires that scorched more than 800,000 acres, but California officials warn a more difficult fire season is ahead and predict the number of fires in the state should increase this year.

Many local residents, however, have already taken steps to reduce their wildfire risk. Using proven principles for wildfire safety, 61 communities in California have participated for several years in the national Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program, which emphasizes community involvement and helps residents learn how to do their part to keep their homes and property safer from wildfire.

Participating Firewise communities near Los Angeles include Beverly Hills and Carbon Canyon in Chino Hills. Two communities, East Orange County Canyons in Silverado and the Foothill Communities Association in Santa Ana, closest to the Summit Fire, became official Firewise sites in 2012. A list of all California Firewise-recognized sites can be found on the Firewise website.

Wildfire doesn’t have to burn everything in its path. In fact, cleaning your property of debris and maintaining your landscaping are important first steps. Below are actions residents can take to reduce the risk of homes and property becoming fuel for a wildfire: 

  • Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
  • Keep lawns hydrated and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
  • Remove flammable materials within 3-5 feet of the home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch the house, deck or porch.
  • Limit vegetation surrounding the home’s perimeter, at least 30-100 feet, depending on the area’s wildfire risk. The Firewise Guide to Landscaping can help distinguish the best vegetation based on distance to the home or structure. Firewise landscaping and plants list are also available on the Firewise website.

A comprehensive Firewise tips checklist for homeowners is available.

Those interested in making a lasting change to their home can consider a Firewise construction approach, which means building with less-flammable materials for homes, decks, porches and fences. This includes using Class-A roofing materials such as asphalt shingles and metal, cement and concrete products. Double-paned or tempered glass windows also make a home more resistant to heat and flames. 

Learn more about how to keep families safe and reduce homeowners’ risk for wildfire damage at www.Firewise.org. Additionally, complimentary brochures, booklets, pamphlets, videos and much more can be found on the information and resources page of the website and ordered online through NFPA’s online wildfire safety catalog.

About Firewise
The Firewise Communities Program encourages local solutions for safety by involving homeowners in taking individual responsibility for preparing their homes from the risk of wildfire. Firewise is one element of the Fire Adapted Communities initiative – a national effort that engages homeowners, firefighters, civic leaders and land managers to reduce wildfire risk in communities throughout the United States. The Firewise Communities Program and Fire Adapted Communities are sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association and USDA Forest Service.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. NFPA develops more than 300 codes and standards to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other hazards. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed at no cost at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.

Media Contact: Lorraine Carli, +1 617 984-7275

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