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San Diego Wild Fire Season Tips

The Witch Creek Fire started in Witch Creek Canyon near Santa Ysabel, at 12:35 PM PDT on Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Witch Creek Fire started in Witch Creek Canyon near Santa Ysabel, at 12:35 PM PDT on Sunday, October 21, 2007

Create Safety Zones Around Your Home or Building.

Begin with a 30-foot safety zone around any structure.

Keep the volume of vegetation in this zone to a minimum. Clear further to the east as this is the direction the strongest Santa Ana winds come from. If you live on a hill, extend the zone on the downhill side. Fire spreads rapidly uphill.

In this 30 foot zone, you should also do the following:

  • Move shrubs and other landscaping away from the sides of the house.
  • Prune branches and shrubs within 15 feet of chimneys and roof.
  • Do not trim trees or bushes as to create a fire “funnel” toward your house. Some bushes and low branches on trees 30 feet from a building can work to slow the wind near your house, and this reduction in wind speed will greatly reduce chance of flying embers starting a fire.
  • Replace highly flammable vegetation such as pine, junipers and fir trees with lower growing, less flammable species.

Create a second zone of at least 100 feet around the house.

This zone should begin about 30 feet from the house and extend to at least 100 feet. In this zone, reduce or replace as much of the most flammable vegetation as possible. Fan Palm trees on the eastern side of a house can be problematic, as they catch fire easily in a Santa Ana wind/fire conditions and create wind borne fire balls.

Remember – clear all combustibles within 30 feet of any structure.

  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Stack firewood 100 feet away and uphill from any structure.
  • Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep them away from the house.
  • Keep the gas grill and propane tank at least 15 feet from any structure. Always use the grill cautiously but refrain from using it all during high risk times.

Protect Your Home

  • Clear leaves, trash and other combustible materials away from underneath decks and porches.
  • Enclose all eaves to reduce the ability for an ember to start a fire. This is one of the simplest things you can do to make your home less likely to catch fire from an ember. A San Diego Based company that does this very well is Best Rate Repair.
  • Cover all openings and vents with 1/4 inch or smaller corrosion-resistant wire mesh.

Use fire resistant materials in the siding of your home, such as stucco, metal, brick, cement shingles, concrete and rock.
Install non-combustible awnings to shield windows and use shatter-resistant glazing such as tempered glass.

Have and use a fire safe. Since you don’t know when a fire may start, store important keepsakes, papers and documents in a fire proof safe. A real fire safe has a testing label, such as UL, that will describe the length of time in fire protection it may provide. In Southern California a home should have AT LEAST a 1 hour, 1200 degree rated safe. An ideal safe would be rated for 90 minutes or more. Home fires that are fully involved can burn up to 2,000 degrees. A safe professional can help you select a safe that will work well for both burglary and fire protection. Visit or call the folks at Grah for more information.

If there is a fire:

Gather those items you will need to evacuate and have them ready to go. Insurance papers, prescriptions, phone numbers, cell phones, photo albums, etc. Remember most of your stuff is just that, stuff, and can be replaced. Take only those items you need or that can not be replaced easily.

If you are evacuating, leave early and have a destination in mind before you get in a vehicle. Do not panic, use common sense and be part of the fire solution, not the problem.