California is barely a month into the summer of 2020, but wildfire season is in full swing. An unusually dry January and February gave way to a wet March and April, which lessened severe dry conditions, but May and June brought a series of intense heat waves and low humidity across the state. By the 4th of July, approximately 40,000 acres had been consumed by wildfire.
You still have time to get ready for wildfire season by preparing your house and your evacuation plan, and recognizing the possibility that your electrical utility company may shut off your power when conditions are ripe for a fire.
Preparing your house
Defensible space is the buffer you create between your home or business and the trees, plants, and wildland area that surrounds it. There are two zones of defensible space, according to ReadyForWildfire.com.
Zone 1 extends 30 feet from your home (or other structures). In zone 1, you should remove all dead or dry plants and vegetation, remove branches that hang over your roof and clear pine needles and dry leaves, and remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs near doors and windows.
Zone 2 extends 100 feet, and here you should mow grass down to a maximum height of 4 inches, and create vertical space between shrubs and trees to prevent fire from moving from the ground to the brush to the treetops like a ladder.
For more information about how to create defensible space around your home or business, visit ReadyForWildfire’s defensible space page: https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/get-ready/defensible-space/
Preparing Your Evacuation Plan
In the event of an emergency, you may not have much time to evacuate your home. Knowing what to do in an emergency is an important part of being prepared and may make all the difference in the world when every second counts.
Before disaster strikes, create and practice a family disaster plan. The plan should take into account the types of disasters that could strike in your area. Everyone in your family should be familiar with the plan and their roles, including designating who is responsible for communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like operating medical equipment.
For more information about building your family’s disaster plan, visit the California Office of Emergency Services’ website: https://www.caloes.ca.gov/ICESite/Pages/10-Ways-To-Be-Prepared.aspx.
Get ready for a Public Safety Power Shutoff
A number of California’s recent wildfires have been caused by failures of electric utility equipment, including the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County. A faulty electric transmission line ignited a firestorm that took the lives of at least 85 people and destroyed more than 18,000 buildings.
If conditions align, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and Pacific Gas and Electric will monitor local fire danger and extreme weather conditions across California and evaluate whether to de-energize portions of the state’s electrical grid in high-risk areas. Factors include, but are not limited to:
- High winds (including Red Flag warnings)
- Low humidity
- Dry vegetation
- Fire threat
- On-the-ground observations
- Public safety risk
If a Public Safety Power Shutoff is needed due to extreme conditions, you can expect:
- Early Warning Notification—Your energy company will aim to send customer alerts before shutting off power.
- Ongoing Updates—Your energy company will provide ongoing updates through social media, local news outlets, and their website.
- Safety Inspections—After extreme weather has passed, your energy company will inspect the lines in affected areas before power is safely restored.
- Power Restoration—Power outages could last multiple days depending on the severity of the weather and other factors. It is important that you and your family have an emergency preparedness plan in place.
For more information about Public Safety Power Shutoffs, visit your electric utility’s website or the California Public Utilities Commission website: https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/deenergization/