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I was heartbroken last week when I saw video of Notre Dame on fire, especially when the centuries old spire came tumbling down. I wondered how a stone structure could burn the way it did. After some research, I learned that inside the stone walls was a very old wooden frame. The roof was also made of ancient wood which is really the major cause of the fire’s intensity. This is the same problem that most homeowners in California face.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the old cathedral twice in my lifetime and each time was thrilling. The reverence the old building commands is unmatched.

 But none of that stopped the catastrophic loss of much of the building which got me to thinking……what can we do to better protect our own homes?

First, take a good look at your yard. If you have any dry vegetation such as dead weeds, do your best to clear it out.Notre Dame Fire Paris

Examine the types of trees which may be in your yard and surrounding your house. If they are of a flammable type, consider replacing them. Do you remember the Scripps Ranch fire years ago? It was made much worse due to the abundance of Eucalyptus trees the area is known for. Each tree acted as though it were a matchstick. If trees are overgrown or touching your house, have somebody trim the branches away from the ground and away from your home.

Consider using fire resistant plants around the outside of your house but make sure you check to see if the plants that appeal to you are suited for the area in which you live in.

Most houses in Southern California have stucco walls and tile roofs. If you live in an older home with wood shake walls and roof, this presents a high risk of total fire damage.

Other common sense tips to help fireproof your house include:

  •  Check to make sure that your smoke detectors are in good working order and placed properly around your house.
  •  Strategically place fire extinguishers around your home.
  •  Clean up any junk that may be stored in your side yard. Put recyclables in the recycling bin.
  •  Avoid using a barbecue or fire pit when the weather is extremely dry.
  •  Many fires are prolonged and cause much greater damage that go under the edges of your homes roof. While the roof may be made of tile, the underside of your roof may be hollowed out and made of flammable wood. Consider investing in a fire resistant roof which makes the underside of the edges solid and made of fire resistant material.

 Other important considerations:

  •  Have a go-bag ready so if you need to leave your home in a hurry, you’ll have your important papers, medications, records, water, etc. Years ago, my family had to evacuate our home quickly and after assessing how we did afterwards, frankly we failed.
  •  Have a plan in place so each member of your family knows where to go and how to communicate with each other if they are separated.
  •  Know which route to take which maximizes your chance of escaping the fire area in a timely manner.

Most of this is common sense but is neglected when it seems like the chance of fire is remote. Taking these steps and having a plan in place could save lives and your property.

--Ken May

Posted 1:00 PM

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