Q: With all the red flag warnings we have already had this month, I’ve been working hard to get my yard prepared for the fire season. I don’t want to forget something that might save my home in a wildfire. Do the master gardeners have a checklist for defensible space similar to those you see for fire preparedness inside the home?
A: Yes, the Master Gardeners have many resources that can help educate you on how to prepare your yard and home to survive a wildfire. I have included the information from our defensible space list below and also provided some links for more information on preparing for a wildfire.
- Maintenance of your home and yard is an important factor in protecting your home from wildfire — especially keeping decks, roof and gutters free of dry leaves or pine needles. You may need to do this monthly during the summer and fall.
- From recent fires, we’ve learned the importance of keeping the first five feet around your house clear of materials that will easily burn. This means removing any wooden fences, wooden benches, arbors, stacked wood or shrubs from that area against the house, especially if they are under a window.
- Typical landscape design usually has bark mulch and shrubs right up against the home. If these catch on fire they can then ignite siding or heat windows until they break, allowing the fire to enter the home. If you have this type of landscaping, replace it with non-flammable materials such as rock or other hardscaping, well-watered lawn or gravel mulch.
- Properly thin and prune trees and shrubs within Zones 1 and 2. Make sure to remove any slash or debris from tree/shrub thinning and pruning. See the Cal Fire website at www.readyforwildfire.org for more information on these zones.
- Screen attic, roof, eaves and foundation vents, and periodically check them to ensure that they are in good condition. Also, screen or wall-in stilt foundations and decks. Screens should be 1/8-inch or smaller metal mesh; 1/16-inch mesh is best.
- Check chimney screens to make sure they are in place and in good condition, and remove branches that overhang the roof and chimney.
- Post signs at the end of the driveway with your last name and house number that are noncombustible, reflective and easily visible to emergency responders.
- Make sure that the driveway is wide enough for fire trucks to enter and exit, and that trees and branches are adequately cleared for access and retreat by fire and emergency equipment. Contact your local fire department or check the CalFire website for information specific to access and clearance.
- Mow grass and weeds to a height of 6 inches or less, and rake all pine needles and other flammable debris away from the foundation of your home and deck.
- If you take pictures of your defensible space after you finish, next year you can check regrowth of trees and shrubs by reviewing photos of your original defensible space. This will help you to maintain a safe landscape.
- Complete a checklist of fire safety needs inside your home. Examples include having an evacuation plan and maintaining smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Lists are available at www.readyforwildfire.org, or www.safetyactioncenter.pge.com, or at your local fire department.
- Ensure your home telephone number and any other important phone numbers appear in the county’s Reverse 911 or other emergency notification database. Install RedAlert, CodeRED and NIXLE on your mobile device to have emergency evacuation notices sent directly to your phone.
- Prepare a “go bag” with supplies that will last at least three days. It should contain your family’s and pets’ necessary items such as cash, water, clothing, food, first aid items and prescription medicines.
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For more information on fire prevention, preparing for an evacuation or recovering from a wildfire, check out the Shasta County Cooperative Extension site at https://bit.ly/3umGJuR.
The Shasta Master Gardeners Program can be reached by phone at 242-2219 or email [email protected]. The gardener office is staffed by volunteers trained by the University of California to answer gardeners’ questions using information based on scientific research.