Lessons Learned From A Close Call

Crisis focuses the mind.  Running around getting ready to evacuate as last week's fire closed in, I noticed problems that decrease the fire safety of our home.  Admittedly these are minor compared to the basics, like a non-flammable roof, closed or no eaves, defensible space around structures, and the like, but it was reported that one relatively well-protected home in our area burned because firewood was piled up right next to the house.  Flying embers lit the firewood.  The home was destroyed.  A survey of the area around the home might make the difference between a home and a pile of ash. 

Bad:  At least two of the Cypress are too close to the house. I love them, but...
 Good:  the neighbor's seven Palms and two Peppers removed from along the fence line creates a little more defensible space and reduced potential fuel.   Good:  the drainage culvert is a small fire break.  Bad:  there are still at least four dying Eucalyptus right along the fence line, as well as some dead shrubbery.  Do I speak to the new neighbors about this?   
Bad:  flammable plastic storage right next to the house.
 Bad:  the potting table mess is also too close to the house.  Flammable table, plastics.  Think about replacing with a metal table but certainly clear out the mess.  
 Bad:  the failed vertical succulent planter:  flammable plastic. 
 Good:  that low fern, mulched by rock.  Bad:  wooden stool used as plant stand. 
 Flammable door mat
 Good:  more low plantings under windows
Good:  an eye candy break. 
Bad: plastic (flammable) pots on the balcony:  those should go.  Fired clay or ceramic pots only. 
  A place to move anything flammable (wooden patio chairs, plastic trash bins, etc) away from the house and all foliage--guess that's the driveway surrounded by concrete walls.  Wooden tables and chairs should be replaced by metal, if possible. 
 Lessons learned after our close call last week.  Fire safety is part of California living.

Spiders know!  Keep your home as safe as possible. 

Comments

  1. Definitely some good points to keep in mind. I'm not sure how much these changes would have helped when the whole neighborhood is aflame, but if you're not helping...
    Even in a less fire-prone area, firewood against the house should be reconsidered for the bug concerns, and I'm sure you can never go wrong with more terra-cotta and succulents! Thanks for the eye-candy, it was the perfect break :)

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    1. If the whole neighborhood is going up, no, it wouldn't help. Witness the horror in Santa Rosa. Where it would help or might help would be escape time--an extra two or three or five minutes to get out and get away can save lives. Was going to mention that in the post, and should have. Thanks!

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    2. Definitely speak to your new neighbors about the dying Eucs by the fenceline. Now, while fire is on everyone's mind, is the time. The situation up north is terrifying.

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    3. I didn't know that you were in potential evacuation mode. How terrifying. At last the temps are sliding down a bit this week.

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    4. @Nell, Yes the Santa Rosa fire was truly awful. Ours was nowhere near as bad, but it was a call to pay attention and improve where we can.

      @Denise, yes we were warned to get out. The tanker planes and helicopters and the firefighters on the ground and the dying of the wind saved our neighborhood!

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  2. All good points. The prior owner had firewood stacked right up against the house, which we removed the first month we were here but there are issues with our space still. However, the thing that disturbs me the most at present is all the dead trees in the surrounding area. In retrospect, I'm thankful that the former tree-hating neighbor pushed the removal of the huge Eucalyptus feet from the house.

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    1. Fire aside, firewood stacked against the house (rats, termites) is such a no-no. Still quite a few dead or dying trees around here also. The other neighbor downhill finally took out two dead Eucs, but some remain.

      Rather ironic that the tree-hater had the right result due to the wrong idea!

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  3. Yikes - crisis mode sharpens the eye, for sure. I can't even imagine the emotional toll that kind of stress would carry with it. Glad you are safe - for this time around, anyway. Phew...

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    1. No, not really emotional. Think though the possibilities and improve safety. Pure pragmatism. The situation up north is much much worse. We were lucky here. So many people up north lost their homes and loved ones.

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  4. These were eye opening observations. Guess I need to clear out my carport. I'm far away from California but I do live out in the country. Yes, speak to the neighbors! They are hopefully more open to clearing these trees out after the close call.

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    1. I think I come off as a tree-hater to a lot of people, but I do love trees--just not the highly flammable ones, and the unloved ones make me sad.

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    2. Being pro-active about a DEAD eucalyptus is a sensible attitude in a fire-prone area, not tree hating at all. I am nervous about palm trees and pines too. Hope your new neighbour will say - removing dead trees is high on our list.

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    3. @Diane, I agree, but the sad lack of interest in plants and trees is rampant here. Better, though, to be optimistic!

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  5. Excellent points. We wouldn't fare well if we applied these criteria to our property. Time to wake up.

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    1. It doesn't hurt to think about wildfire safety, that is for sure.

      This heat is terrible. I keep hoping the next heat wave is the last one, but then another is forecast. Another bad one predicted for this weekend and early next week. Are you cooling off at all up north?

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    2. Aargh on the continued heatwave. Makes your beautiful eye candy vignette all the sweeter.

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    3. Sweeter, but come the weekend, crispy.

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  6. Disasters do have a way of focusing the mind. Most of the preventive measures are common knowledge around here but very few actually implement them.

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    1. Here too. I mean "no firewood piled against the house", isn't that Homeowner 101? I remarked to the previous homeowner in the back that all his dead trees were a fire danger and he replied that if the house burnt down he'd get a brand new house out of it, but...what if he couldn't escape in time?

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