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Protect Your Home From Fire

Most Los Gatos residents know that fire can spread in the blink of an eye. Do you know what to do to protect your home?

The hills have taken on the hues of summer. The neon shades of green that signaled spring have given way to deeper tints.

But the beautiful setting that attracted homebuyers in the first place also creates conditions ripe for wildfire. Residents may have a false sense of security if they've recently settled here.

California, however, provides plenty of examples of devastating blazes year after year. Just across the bay, we can take a cue from the  that jumped a freeway and took 25 lives resulted in an economic disaster costing $1.5 billon. More recently, the deadly wildfires in San Diego County in 2003 and 2007 produced towering flames that overran entire neighborhoods, destroying thousands of homes.

Fortunately none of its residents were injured by six firefighters and one police officer were treated at area hospitals for heat exhaustion.

November, December and January of this year were particularly dry months for the Bay Area, drier than the region has seen in 100 years, according to the San Jose Mercury News. From January of the beginning of June, there have been about 1,600 fires throughout the state.

While there’s no defense against some firestorms, there’s a lot that homeowners can do to protect their homes from the fires that we typically see around here.

Cal Fire has declared it fire season in Northern California and expects this year to be one of the worst in recent history. The agency has also issued guidelines to help any homeowner to create defensible zones.

The Santa Clara County Fire Department also has a fire prevention division solely dedicated to keeping Santa Clara County as protected as possible from the conditions that can lead to fire. 

Here are some tips from the SCCFD and Cal Fire on how to create a defensible space around your house and property:

Zone 1 - Area within 30 feet of structures

  • Remove all dead plants, grass and weeds.
  • Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters.
  • Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees.
  • Remove branches that hang over your roof and keep dead branches 10 feet away from your chimney.
  • Relocate woodpiles at least 30 feet from structures, fences and other combustible materials.
  • Remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows.
  • Remove vegetation and items that could catch fire from around and under decks.
  • Create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, wood piles, swing sets, etc.  
  • Chimney outlets or flues should be covered with a spark arresting 1/2" (12.5mm) mesh screen.

Zone 2 - Area 100 feet from structure

  • Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of 4 inches.
  • Create vertical and horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees.
  • Remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones, and small branches. However, they may be permitted to a depth of 3 inches if erosion control is an issue.

Additionally, the SCCFD recommends making sure house addresses are clearly visible for easy identification in an emergency.

If you are unsure if your property is out of compliance with the fire safety standards, call the fire prevention division for a courtesy inspection. They can be reached at 408-378-4010 or through email at prevention@cnt.sccfd.org.

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Michelle Fitzsimmons June 12, 2012 at 07:48 PM
with the slew of fires Santa Clara County has seen in the last few days, making a defensible space around your property is really hitting home for me! i just bought a weed whacker yesterday and am going to start clearing out the dry grass and shrubs that have taken over my backyard. all it takes is one little spark to cause so much damage. check your smoke detectors! that's something i've recently started doing (which I know you're supposed to check like twice a year) but they can save your life!

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