If you’ve ever known a firefighter, you know that they’re as close to a brotherhood as you can get. Besides the obvious (that they have to learn to not only watch one another’s back in a fire rescue) they also learn to work together seamlessly so that in a rescue no one gets left behind. They’re a well-oiled unit, operating entirely for the service and wellbeing of those who surround them. When they enter a burning building, their thoughts are more selfless than the selfish, risking their own life so that others can be safe, while also assuming a position that will help get their team out of the engulfing flames in now time at all.
Growing up down the street from a fire station, I knew my fair share of fighters. Not only did I have the distinct pleasure of growing up next door to two very kind and courageous men (more on the one here), but I’ve also been blessed to get to know my best friend’s husband, who—you guessed it—happens to be a volunteer firefighter. These men (and women) are kind individuals, who, living in southern California often times need a break, but won’t say anything because they’ve got a job to do.
As southern California gets further and further into its hot season (which is a joke in and of itself), I can’t help but remember this time last year. It was the calm before the storm, so to speak, as hot and dry April days lead to an even hotter and dryer month of May, until finally hell broke loose in the form of eight distinct full range fires in southern California. Unfortunately for us, this is all too familiar a scenario for our desert cities, and even with our firefighters prepared and willing to fight the flames, we were all but engulfed for nearly a month. With fire season quickly approaching, and April remaining just as dry as ever, I wanted to offer a few tips and tricks for keeping our mountain ranges and city fire free, so that our hardworking firefighters can earn a well deserved break.
- Clean Up Your Space: Living in a home is a blessing and a curse for those of us in southern California. On the one hand, our home is meant to defend and protect us in times of strife, on the other hand, when not managed well, a home can be a piece of tinder waiting to combust. If you haven’t taken a good look at your home in awhile, perhaps now is the time. How do your gutters look? Are they filled with dried leaves and brittle wood pieces? If so, then do yourself a favor and CLEAN THEM OUT. Often times, living in state suffering from a drought, we forget to worry about our gutters, but if your gutters are harvesting flame friendly foods then it’s time to get down and dirty and clean them out. Likewise, take a look at that pile of wood and torn up brambles in your backyard—you might as well be hand feeding the flames to your doorstep! Though it’s a hassle and often times exhausting, get rid of these piles immediately to help protect your home from fire damage. Additionally, keep your trees pruned and their branches high and away from your home, this will make it less likely that your branches will fall off and onto the house, lighting your house on fire in turn.
- Go Non-Flammable: Depending on where you live, you may find it prudent to get your home into top firefighting gear by going non-flammable wherever possible. After you’ve cleaned out your yard and gutters from any flame attracting areas, take a look at the actual structure of your home. Cover any exterior walls with flame retardant choices like stucco, brick, or stone. Likewise, cover any open eaves or undersides of decks with fire resistant materials, often available at your local home depot. If you’re able to swing it, invest in double paned windows, as these will add an extra layer of protection should flames come up to the sides of your home. Investing in non-flammable materials can be costly, but consider the alternative cost if your home should become faced with flames that threaten not only your personal belongings, but livelihood, and memories as well.
- Always Be Prepared: Being prepared is not always as easy as it sounds, and while we may have learned to stop, drop, and roll in kindergarten, it won’t always save you should your home become engulfed in flames. Create an emergency kit that has changes of clothes, toothbrushes, water, extra house keys, a flashlight, portable radio and food along with a first aid kit (for a full list visit here). Store any valuables in large Tupperware containers that can be grabbed at a moment’s notice and hauled into your car. Ensure that your address is visible to your neighbors in case something should go wrong, leaving them capable of calling for firefighters with an accurate address. Finally, always designate an emergency place for you and your family in case in the frenzy you get separated and lost.
Fire season is coming folks, whether you’re prepared for it or not. There’s no point in hiding from the truth any longer, that pile of dried brambles in your backyard is not just unsightly to look at it, it’s a downright fire hazard for you and your family. So let’s clean up where we can and fix those parts of our home that might welcome a fire with open arms. Our firefighters are tired, so let’s give them the break they deserve.