Wildfire preparedness is key for Saratogans – East Bay Times



California is now in its third year of drought conditions, and the winter months of January, February and March were the driest in 100 years, with record-low rain and snow levels. Warm, dry conditions mean that California may see another year of devastating wildfires. With roughly half of Saratoga at high or very high risk for wildfire, every Saratoga resident should be ready for the possibility.

Prepare for wildfire season by doing a few simple things: Remove dead leaves and other debris from gutters; remove flammable materials near homes and other structures; get rid of dead trees, plants and grass; cut back tree branches to create space between trees and structures and remove any branches that hang over the roof; trim grasses down to a maximum height of 4 inches; and trim shrubs and trees so that branches are off the ground and not touching other plants.

The community can also reduce the risk of wildfire by being aware of red flag warnings, issued by the National Weather Service when weather conditions can result in extreme fire behavior. These conditions can include low relative humidity, strong winds, dry fuels or the possibility of dry lightning strikes. When there is a red flag warning, do not use lawnmowers or spark-producing equipment in or near dry vegetation. Report unattended outdoor fires immediately to 911. Do not drive over dry grass, ensure that trailer chains are not dragging on the ground, and do not throw cigarettes or matches out of a vehicle.

It is also a good idea to visit alertscc.org and sign up for Santa Clara County’s official emergency warning system to receive up-to-date information on emergencies such as wildfires. AlertSCC provides the option to receive notifications for home, work and school locations. Receiving timely, accurate information during a disaster is the key to making the best decisions possible during an emergency.

All these measures are particularly important for residents in the high fire-hazard areas, who play a critical role in mitigating wildfire risk by establishing defensible space and reducing wildfire fuels. Efforts on individual parcels help provide protection for the entire community.

Saratoga residents can learn more about preparing for fire season by attending one of the free virtual workshops hosted by Santa Clara County Fire in April and May. Workshop topics include home ignition zones, home insurance in high fire hazard areas and evacuation planning. Visit sccfd.eventbrite.com or call 408-378-4010 to register.

The city also offers several resources for properties in high fire-hazard areas through our partners at the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council. These include free home ignition zone inspections to help property owners identify potential risks, a free annual chipping program for brush and a rebate for removal of dead trees. The FireSafe Council also offers free coaching to neighborhoods that would like to become a Firewise Community. This program teaches communities how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourages neighbors to work together to prevent losses. Saratoga is lucky to have two Firewise Communities: Garrod Heights and Old Oak Way. We hope more of our hillside neighborhoods will take the initiative to earn the Firewise Community designation. To learn more, visit the FireSafe Council website at sccfiresafe.org.

The risk of wildfire is very real in Saratoga and can impact all of us, even those who do not live in the hillsides. The Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa demonstrated just how easily a fire can travel from wildlands, across a freeway and into suburban neighborhoods. As mayor, I urge every resident to do their part to prepare for and prevent wildfires. Together, our community can make a difference. Visit the city website at www.saratoga.ca.us/fire to learn more about wildfire preparation and resources.



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