Sitting ducks? How to shield your home from oncoming wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As wildfires continue to sweep across Northern California, residents say they feel like sitting ducks, waiting for the next disaster to threaten their homes.

However, Cal Fire officials say there are ways to shield houses from an oncoming wildfire - that is, if homeowners act ahead of time.

"I thought maybe we're gonna make it through this weekend without a fire,'' Clearlake Oaks resident Frances Owens said, as she helped neighbors who were evacuated from the Pawnee Fire. "Every year it happens."

Owens expects the worst - and plans for it.

"Every June, I pack up everything that's important,'' she said. "All of the baby pictures, all of the birth certificates, all of the things that are important that can't be replaced, I put them in my car and take them to a friend's house."

"It's so overwhelming, you just want to cry,'' Clearlake Oaks resident Anthony Ponsetto said. He tells ABC7 his family has lost six homes in Lake and Sonoma counties over the past eight years. Every time, the family gathers to rebuild.

"I've lost pretty much my entire life six times,'' he said. "After awhile I just want to pack up and leave but it seems like there's nowhere to go that's safe."

Ponsetto says he put in a swimming pool behind his house, hoping it will act as a firebreak.

Cal Fire says there are other ways to protect homes in a fire zone by creating buffers and coating the houses in a sort of "shield of armor."

First, clear brush within 100 feet of the house.

Also, put on a roof, or re-roof, with tile or metal material, which cannot catch fire; the roof is by far the most vulnerable part of the house in a wildfire. If that can't burn, the house is much safer.

Other steps:
  • Put metal mesh on all vents and chimneys to keep embers from flying into the house

  • Create ample separation between trees, and cut down branches lower than six feet from the ground

  • Use non-combustible materials to build or cover decks, fences, walls, eaves and soffits

  • Install dual-pane windows; they're less likely to burst and open the way for fire.

Also, CalFire says, be ready to evacuate.
  • Box up important papers or store copies elsewhere

  • Prepare a first aid kit

  • Know the quickest routes out of the area

  • Keep your car fueled and ready

  • Wear long sleeves and pants when you're evacuating

  • Don't linger or you may be caught in a traffic jam

CalFire has an app you can put on your phone with many more steps to fend off a fire even before it happens.

Click here for more tips on protecting your home.
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