Protecting Your Property From Wildfires

Protecting Your Property From Wildfires


Good morning.

Wildfires are spreading across California, Washington and Oregon at an astonishing rate, leaving thousands of scorched homes and businesses in their wake.

Flying embers from wildfires can ignite and destroy homes up to one mile away. If you are not under immediate threat from a wildfire, there are steps you can take to make your home more resistant to fires.

If you live within one of California’s Responsibility Areas, the state requires you to keep a “defensible space” around your property that is clear of brush or vegetation.

“Having defensible space does make a big difference,” said Brian Centoni, the public information officer for the Fire Department in Alameda County, where the S.C.U. Lightning Complex Fire was 95 percent contained as of Thursday afternoon.

However, you must leave your home if the authorities order you to evacuate. Mr. Centoni said that when evacuation orders for the S.C.U. Lightning Complex were issued in mid-August it meant to leave home as soon as possible in order to save lives.

[Read the latest updates on the fires here.]

Home hardening, the process of modifying a home to make it more fire-resistant, can help protect firefighters too. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends plugging a garden hose into a water line so fire departments can have access to it. You should identify and maintain water sources like hydrants, ponds and pools and make sure they are accessible. You can also ensure that your driveway is clear for emergency vehicles and that your address signs are clearly visible from the road.

California has some of the strictest building codes in the nation, and new homes are required to be constructed with certain fire-resistant materials. Some have taken to building homes entirely out of flameproof materials.

FEMA recommends regularly clearing your roof and gutters of dry leaves and other debris. To prevent embers from flying in, enclose or box in eaves, soffits, decks and other openings in the home’s structure; fine wire mesh can be used to cover vents, crawl spaces and the area underneath porches and decks. A defensible space around the perimeter of the house should be well-irrigated and free of brush, vegetation and other materials that could fuel a fire. Adding fuel breaks such as gravel walkways or driveways can also help.

[More information on hardening your home against wildfires.]

If you are unable to make major changes to your house or landscaping, Carrie Bilbao, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center, recommends conducting a quick assessment of your property and making small but critical changes such as removing flammable items — couch cushions and brooms that are stored outside.

“One thing that people do need to remember is that it’s not just an individual effort but a community effort,” Ms. Bilbao said. “You can do all you can for your own home but if your next-door neighbor doesn’t, the potential for fire to come and impact you is greater.”

(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)

Read more about the fires:

Here’s key information if you live in the area, and how to help. [Chico Enterprise-Record]

  • As fires spread across multiple states, firefighting forces are stretched unlike they’ve ever been before. [The New York Times]

  • Officials have worried about cascading disasters. They just didn’t think they would start so soon. Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken to telling climate change deniers to come to his state to see it for themselves. [The New York Times]

  • To prevent fire damage, the nation needs to drastically rethink its fire-management policies. [The New York Times]

  • Another problem? Wildfires are increasing the number of homeowners who can’t get insurance. [The New York Times]

  • Climate change is one of the biggest crises facing the nation and the world. You wouldn’t know it from the presidential campaigns. [The Associated Press]

  • The “fire-breathing dragon” cloud formation over the Creek Fire was the biggest ever to form above United States soil. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

  • Gender-reveal parties, like the one that the authorities say started the El Dorado Fire, have divided Americans for almost a dozen years. Here’s why they happen. [The New York Times]

  • The photographer Max Whittaker, who has covered wildfires for almost two decades, described the singularly eerie experience of working in Big Basin Redwoods State Park after fire swept through. [The New York Times]

[Cómo empezaron los incendios y otras respuestas que buscas.]


  • Workers for a home-cleaning company say they’ve been sexually harassed on the job, but because they’re contractors, they have fewer protections. A civil rights group is asking regulators to step in. [The New York Times]

  • For days, demonstrators protested outside the South Los Angeles sheriff’s station over the killing of Dijon Kizzee by deputies. Mostly, the protests had remained peaceful. But over Labor Day weekend, deputies fired projectiles and tear gas, and arrested dozens. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • The Cal State University system won’t return to in-person learning in the spring 2021 semester. The system was one of the first to cancel in-person classes for the fall and is one of the first to make the decision for the spring. [The Mercury News]

  • After getting the green light to open hair salons and gyms indoors from the state, San Francisco held off. But now they’re set to open at limited capacity next week. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

If you missed it, here’s what to know about the state’s reopening plan. [The New York Times]


The pandemic forced Oasis, a cabaret and nightclub whose drag shows were often packed, to close. Its owners had to furlough the whole staff.

But then, my colleague Concepción de León reported, its owner had an idea: “If people couldn’t come to see drag, why not bring drag to the people?”

Thus was born Meals on Heels. For about $100, a drag queen or king will deliver dinner, drinks and a curbside performance. The idea had its ups and downs — literally.

“I was definitely performing on driveways that were at a 45-degree angle,” Amoura Teese, a drag performer whose given name is Ryan Maldonado, told Concepción.

But ultimately, the performers figured out ways to work their new venues.

The mini-shows got some local buzz, and now, the club’s owner said there’s more demand than they can keep up with.

[See the full story.]


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.





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