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Officials outline fire season safety measures

Clearing brush from around your home is essential to help prevent structure fires, officials say

Posted: May 10, 2009 9:51 p.m.
Updated: May 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Santa Barbara's disastrous Jesusita Fire has sparked concerns in the Santa Clarita Valley about the return of fire season and the need to be prepared, a County fire spokesman said.

The Jesusita Fire destroyed or damaged 75 homes and burned 3,500 acres, forcing more than 20,000 people to be evacuated as of Friday. The newest wildfire to ravage California reignited the push for fire preparedness by Los Angeles County fire officials.

Preparation for fire season starts with a little work, Inspector Stephen Zermeno said. His advice is to start with area surrounding the home.

"Look around your house and clean up areas with wood piles and other combustibles," Zermeno said. "Homeowners also need to clean up the brush around their homes."

Brush provides the fuel that allows fires to easily spread to the home's structure, Zermeno said.

Homeowners are legally required to clear all the brush within 30 feet of the home, but Zermeno advises homeowners to clear the brush within 50 feet of the home to increase the likelihood of the house surviving a wildfire. After creating a brush-free zone up to 50 feet from the home, homeowners should thin the brush for an additional 50 feet to provide more protection for the home, Zermeno added.

Fire preparedness means more than clearing brush. Californians need to be ready to evacuate their homes if needed, Zermeno said.

"People need to think what they need to grab right away," he said.

Items such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, military discharge papers, death certificates, wills, trusts and other important documents should be taken during an evacuation.

Zermeno suggests people consult others in their household to devise a plan that includes what items need to be taken with them during the evacuation. The plan should also include picking rendezvous points, if people within the household evacuate separately.

The primary destination should be with a family or friend, Zermeno said. However, there may be a chance that your primary evacuation rendezvous point is also threatened by fire, he said. Pick a back-up location to go during an evacuation, Zermeno added,
Zermeno also suggests taking some cash.

"(Cash) is something we don't think of," he said. Evacuees should take enough cash to cover gas and food for several days. The amount needed varies depending on how many people are in each household, Zermeno said.

One thing homeowners often overlook is what to do with pets. Some shelters don't accept pets, so evacuees should make plans in advance for their pets, Zermeno said. "Don't leave pets behind," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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