Public Safety

Prepare and Protect Your Family Before the Next Wildfire Flares Up

Video by Suzanne Bartole
The West Fire destroys a house in Alpine on July 7.

We had three significant fires in July alone in San Diego County that resulted in evacuations and one that resulted in significant property loss. There’s no doubt fire season is here both in Southern and Northern California. Besides the wildfires that are now contained locally, firefighters are battling more than 10 major fires north of us in the state including the Carr Fire in Redding and the Ferguson Fire in Idyllwild. These fires are a reminder that fire season is year-round, and that everybody needs to be prepared to react in case one affects their area.

What does that mean specifically? Assess your plan and readiness now rather than in the middle of an emergency.

  1. Review your family disaster plan, or create one if you don’t have one yet.
  2. Be prepared to evacuate with only minutes’ notice. Practice evacuating with your family.
  3. Do you have all the necessary items handy to take with you if you had to evacuate?
  4. Do you have contingency plans for different times of the day, such as a fire breaking out while some family members are at work or school?
  5. Check with schools or childcare providers to make sure you are aware of emergency plans and how you will be contacted.
  6. In case you are separated during a disaster, discuss where to reunite because phone service may not be reliable during a disaster.
  7. Your pets are part of your family, too, so make sure they are microchipped, you have evacuation items for them as well – including crates for small pets – and evacuation plans for larger animals such as horses or livestock.
  8. Check supplies to make sure food, water and medications have not expired and that every family member’s dietary or medical needs are represented.
  9. Register your –and other family members’– cell phones with AlertSanDiegoso that you will all be notified of an emergency affecting your neighborhood. This is especially important if you no longer have a landline at your home.
  10. If you own an iOS or Android phone, download the SDEmergency App.  It is a great resource for a wide variety of preparedness tips.
  11. Make sure your homeowner’s insurance policy is up to date, covers wildfires and insures all the contents of your home.
  12. Take a walk around your property and ensure that you have a minimum of 100 feet of defensible space and have no touching or overhanging tree branches on your roof.  The point is to reduce the likelihood that a burning ember could land on items and catch your home on fire. Remove any dead or dying trees or plants or leaves that could spread fire.

Please note that during hot, dry conditions such as when a red flag warning is issued, residents should not attempt to use power tools as this could spark a grass fire. The same goes for wood piles or combustible items that could catch fire alongside your home.

If possible, reach out to family members, especially elderly ones, and review their plans and supplies with them for your own peace of mind.

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact