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Defend your space

It’s the time to review the ‘Ready! Set! Go! Wildfire Action Plan’

Posted: August 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Though you might be starting to think about “back to school” already, or still deep in “summer vacation” mode, brush fire season is upon us, and now is the time to prepare for it.

As Los Angeles County Fire Department Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby recently stated in an open letter: “The 2012 fire season arrived early this year, and now is the time for you and your family to make plans to survive a wildfire. … All of us at the Los Angeles County Fire Department will take every precaution to help protect you and your property from wildfire. Our firefighters are proactively meeting with many local community groups within the wildland areas to share the important message of preparation.”

Brush clearance

That “preparation” Osby referred to begins with brush clearance.

n Remove flammable vegetation and other combustible growth within 30 feet of any structures. Increase this distance to 50 feet in high-hazard areas.

n Single tree, ornamental shrubbery and ground covers may be permitted provided they do not readily transmit fire from vegetation to structure from radiant heat.

n Landscape with plants that are drought-tolerant and fire-resistant. Maintain plants.

n Space trees and shrubs a minimum of 15 feet apart or three times their distance from other shrubs.

n Trees should be spaced to allow a minimum of 30 feet between canopies at maturity.

n For trees taller than 18 feet, prune lower branches within six feet from the ground.

n For trees and shrubs of less than 18 feet, prune lower branches to one-third of their height.

n Maintain all plants by regularly removing dead branches and leaves.

n Remove all stacks of combustibles materials.

n Stack wood at least 30 feet from structures. Remove flammable vegetation within 10 feet of woodpiles.

Ready! Set! Go!

Osby also noted in his open letter that, “We have published the ‘Ready, Set, Go! Wildfire Action Plan’ to give you the tips and tools to successfully prepare for a wildfire. It will teach you what needs to be done to retrofit your home with fire-resistive features.

It will also help you create the necessary defensible space around your home. This publication will help you prepare your home, yourself and your family so that you can go early, well ahead of a fast-approaching fire.

“Take the time now to sit down with your family members and review the ‘Ready, Set, Go! Wildfire Action Plan.’ Go early — before the fire reaches your neighborhood.

“The most important person in protecting your life and property is not the firefighter, but yourself. Through advance planning and preparation, you will be ready for the next one. For more information, or to schedule a ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ presentation by our firefighters, call our Public Information Office at 323- 881-2411.”

Assistant Fire Chief Bill Niccum added that, “We hope that all residents in the urban interface areas of the Santa Clarita Valley will take brush clearance seriously and will implement the important steps outlined in the ‘Ready! Set! Go!’ guide. When you protect your home, you also protect your family and your neighborhood.”

Defensible space

Defensible space is the area around a structure free of flammable plants and objects that creates a zone where firefighters can operate safely in order to help protect a home during a wildfire. The defensible space for each structure varies, depending on the type of vegetation and topography.

Zone 1: This zone extends 30 feet out from buildings, structures, decks, etc. Remove all flammable vegetation or other combustible growth within 30 feet of any structure or within 50 feet of any structure in areas determined to be high hazard.

Single trees, ornamental shrubbery or cultivated ground covers may be permitted provided they are maintained in such a manner that they do not readily transmit fire from native vegetation to the structure.

Zone 2: Thin out and remove vegetation an additional 70 feet from the structure for a total of 100 feet. The inspecting officer may require an additional 100 feet of thinning or removal, for a total of 200 feet, due to high fire hazard.

Note: Special attention should be given to the use and maintenance of ornamental plants known or thought to be high hazard plants when used in close proximity to structures.

Examples include acacia, cedar, cypress, eucalyptus, juniper, pine and pampas grass. These plantings should be properly maintained and not allowed to be in mass plantings that could transmit fire from the native growth to any structure.

A ‘hardened’ home

The ability of your home to survive wildfire depends on its construction materials and the quality of the defensible space surrounding it.

Embers from a wildfire will find the weak link in your home’s fire-protection scheme and gain the upper hand because of a small, overlooked or seemingly inconsequential factor. However, there are measures you can take to safeguard your home.

Windows and doors: Embers can enter gaps in doors, including garage doors. Plants or combustible storage near windows can be ignited from embers and generate heat that can break windows and/or melt combustible frames.

Balconies and decks: Embers collect in or on combustible surfaces or undersides of decks and balconies, ignite the material and enter the home through walls or windows.

Roofs: A roof is the most vulnerable surface for embers to land, lodge and start a fire. This includes roof valleys, open ends of barrel tiles and rain gutters.

Eaves: Embers gather under open eaves and ignite exposed wood or other combustible material.

Vents: Embers enter attic or other concealed space and ignite combustible materials. Vents in eaves and cornices are particularly vulnerable, as are any unscreened vents.

Walls: Combustible siding or other combustible or overlapping materials provide a surface and crevice for embers to nestle and ignite.

Sprinkler system: To harden your home even further, consider protecting it with a residential fire sprinkler system. It protects your family year-round from wildfires and any fire that may start in your home.


Regardless of all of your efforts to protect your home, an approaching wildfire may necessitate your evacuation.

If you are ordered to evacuate, you need to do so as quickly as possible. This is for your own protection, of course, but it also helps firefighters gain access without having to fight through traffic congestion, and it helps them do their jobs more efficiently and with greater safely.

Niccum said, “We ask you to evacuate so that you are safe from the threat of fire. And when you evacuate, our firefighters can then focus all their efforts on saving your home and not be diverted or impacted by people in the area.

“It is my commitment to you, as your assistant fire chief, to ensure that we allow you back into your home as soon as possible. I will not delay getting you back to your neighborhood after the threat of fire has passed.

“We invite you to visit your local fire station and ask specific questions about fire safety in the home and to discuss your personal fire safety plan.”

Personal action plan

The “Ready! Set! Go!” plan outlines steps and offers checklists so that you can to prepare your family for a wildfire. But the most important thing is to rehearse your plan with your family members and keep the checklists handy.

You should also make an evacuation kit, which includes such things as important documents, phone numbers, prescriptions, irreplaceable memorabilia, credit cards and personal computers or external drives and disks.

Go to for more information.


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