Each year, homeowners in Santa Cruz County face the threat of wildfires and the potential loss of property. Because of this unfortunate reality of living in California, local groups have designed multiple resources that are accessible for free to the community. Homeowners can use these resources to better safeguard their homes – and their families – against the devastating effects of wildfires.
An abundance of resources exist for community members to ensure that homeowners remain safe during times when fires are most likely to occur. The tools listed below are all free to access and help locals prepare for fire-related emergencies
This fire department not only puts out fires once they have started, but also delivers a wealth of knowledge to help Santa Cruz County residents prevent them from happening in the first place. They offer a “Personal Wildfire Action Plan” that assists homeowners with making informed choices about home repairs and building materials. For example, their guide recommends specific ignition-resistant materials for roofs, vents, windows, and decks that add an extra layer of defense against fire. Additionally, detailed information about backyard burning restrictions, permits, and air quality control can be found on their website at SantaCruzCountyFire.com.
CAL FIRE maintains a website (Fire.ca.gov) that includes a variety of links and resources that can be used to keep your home safe, including an “Incidents” page that provides information on major emergency incidents. They provide the date and location of extended-day wildfires and post a “Fire Season Outlook,” which is a glance into the upcoming months’ fire potential.
CAL FIRE also provides information for ReadyforWildfire.org. This site contains an abundance of tips for ways in which homeowners can create a defensible space around their home, or buffers of yard space that help to slow the spread of fire and protect homes from fire. Another great feature of this site is information about fire-resistant landscaping. It includes information about fire-resistant shrubs and trees and ways to utilize materials such as mulch and rock to create firebreaks.
When most people think of the Red Cross they think of blood drives and international disasters; so, it may be surprising to learn that the Red Cross plays a significant role in supporting families after they have experienced fire-related disasters. According to the region’s website, over the past three years the Northern California Coastal Region of the Red Cross has served over 10,465 people and made 3,186 evacuation plans for residents. They also provide financial assistance to community members in need after wildfires. The site also contains information on finding local shelters in the event families need to evacuate their home due to fire-related activity.
Another Red Cross service is The Northern California Coastal Region Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, which helps people in the Santa Cruz County area access smoke alarms for free. Families who need assistance with installing or affording smoke alarms can request Red Cross volunteers to come and install these devices at no cost to the family. Requests for assistance with installing alarms can be found here.
Fire Safe Santa Cruz County is a non-profit whose mission is to “educate and mobilize the people of Santa Cruz County to protect their community, homes, and environment from wildfire.” This group provides additional resources for hardening homes as well as ways to use lawn equipment safely to mitigate the risk of fire. For example, it provides tips about when is the safest time to mow a lawn and when to use spark arresters on equipment like chainsaws and mowers.
The Boulder Creek Fire Protection District is comprised of 35 volunteers that serve the surrounding community. They provide information on important topics including evacuation preparedness and ash removal safety tips, and how to safely dispose of those coals leftover from backyard barbecues and the ashes from living room fireplaces.
Another helpful resource is their Living with Fire in Santa Cruz County booklet, a guide created to inform homeowners of additional ways to keep their home safe in the event of danger. This guide outlines codes that homeowners should be aware of, including regulations on labeling access roads via signs and having the fire chief’s approval for the addition of any security gates around the home.
The encompassing guide also includes a homeowner’s checklist for both the inside and outside of the home, providing fire safety tips for each room of the house and proper disposal of flammable materials from the garage.
Fire Dispatch is a California resource for keeping informed of local emergency events taking place. Users can filter the log to view Santa Cruz events in real-time, helping residents track emergency situations taking place nearby. The site describes the time, location, and nature of the emergency. Fire Dispatch also offers an app available for download on iPhones and iPads so that local residents can stay informed on-the-go.
Fire season can leave homeowners feeling uneasy and unprepared, but by using the above resources, residents of Santa Cruz County can head into the 2020 fire season with an action plan to protect their homes and families.