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A preparedness checklist and how to check your home’s threat level – Press Enterprise

Are you ready for fire season? This year has begun, with the coastal fire that destroyed at least 20 homes this month in Laguna Niguel. Here’s an overview of the preparations you can make, the most at-risk areas in Southern California, and how often wildfires occur.

During the Coastal fire, about 800 households had about an hour to evacuate. Take your precautions now.

To better understand the needs of first responders and other emergency workers, the 2017 US Housing Survey asked residents how prepared they were for disasters.

Check your danger level is a free online tool created by the nonprofit First Street Foundation that helps Americans learn about the risk of their property to environmental threats such as floods and wildfires and understand how risks evolve due to a changing environment. You can enter your address or city to see the risk forecast for your property over the next 30 years.

Fire threatens a home in three ways:


These pieces of burning material can travel up to a mile past a wildfire in windy conditions. To resist this, a residence must have a solid roof and no flammable materials within 5 feet of its exterior. In the Coastal Fire, embers carried by 30mph winds ignited homes which were destroyed.

Radiant heat

A nearby fire can heat the surface of building materials to a point where combustion occurs.

Flame Impact

Heat transfer by direct exposure to flame.

Home Safety Checklist

  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that embers could ignite.
  • Replace or repair loose or missing shingles or tiles to prevent ember penetration.
  • Surround vents under eaves and soffits, or screen with wire mesh to block embers. Most homes are built using 1/4 inch mesh screens, which keep birds and rodents out through the vents. Unfortunately, embers can enter this mesh. Smaller 1/16 inch mesh screens can easily become clogged with dust, paint, or dead plants, hampering the vents’ ability to reduce humidity and temperature in the structure. Covering the vents with 1/8-inch, noncombustible, corrosion-resistant wire mesh screens provides the best protection against wildfires while still allowing the vents to operate.
  • Repair or replace damaged or loose screens and any broken windows.
  • Screen or box areas under patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  • Keep flammable materials away from the exterior of your home.
  • Remove anything stored under decks or porches.

Protect a house against fire

  • Use fire resistant building materials.
  • The roof and exterior of your home should be constructed of noncombustible or fire-resistant materials such as tile, slate, sheet metal, aluminum, brick, or stone.
  • Treat wood siding, cedar shingles, exterior wood panels and other highly combustible materials with flame retardant chemicals.

Some security skills

  • Learn how to use a fire extinguisher.
  • Know how to shut down utilities.
  • Gas: If you smell gas or hear hissing or hissing, open a window and get everyone out quickly. Turn off the gas using the outside main valve, if you can, and get away from the house before calling the gas company. When it is safe to return, a trained professional should turn the gas back on; never try to do it yourself.
  • Water: Water quickly becomes a valuable resource after disasters. Everyone in the household should know how to turn off the water at the main house valve.
  • Electricity: Locate your electrical circuit box. For your safety, always switch off all individual circuits before switching off the main circuit.

Extreme Danger Zones

These are the State Public Utilities Commission’s Southern California Fire Threat Maps for 2021, which take into account major wildfire factors related to terrain and fuel.

You can visit the State Fire Marshal’s website at to see the entire state and each county.

Sources: California Public Utilities Commission, Google Earth satellite images, Cleveland National Forest, InciWeb, ArcGIS, US Forest Service, Cal Fire, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Census Bureau