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Each year in California the first week of May is declared “Wildfire Awareness Week.” During this week California fire departments across the state remind residents of the dangers caused by wildfires and how simple steps, if followed can be used to prepare for fires and also prevent them. If you don’t celebrate a wildfire awareness week or live in an area where wildfires are common, you may not know what you can do as a resident in your community.

Unlike many other types of natural disasters, most wildfires are caused by people. Every year, wildfires burn across the United States and more people are living where wildfires are a real risk. First, you should always contact 911, your local fire department, or the park service if you notice an unattended fire, or fire out of control. Remember, never leave a fire unattended and always completely extinguish a fire by dousing it with water and stirring the ashes until they are cold. Also, never discard matches, cigarettes, or any smoking materials from moving vehicles or anywhere in a park and definitely follow your local ordinances when burning yard waste.

There are also some steps you can take around your home to help prevent the spreading of wildfires. These are easy steps you as a resident in your community can take on your own property.

1. Clear leaves and other debris from your roof, gutter, porch and deck.
2. Remove dead vegetation under your deck, porch, and within 10 feet of your home
3. Remove any materials that are flammable (e.g., wood piles, propane tanks), within 30 feet of your homes foundation, including garages and sheds. You don’t want anything that can catch fire to touch your house.
4. Dry grass is just fuel for a wildfire so keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. After you cut your lawn dispose any lawn cuttings to reduce fuel for a fire.
5. If your shingles or roof tiles are loose or missing replace or repair them in order to prevent embers from penetrating.
6. Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6-10 feet from the ground because wildfires can spread to tree tops.

It’s always a good idea to contact your local planning/zoning office to see if your home is in a high wildfire risk area. If so, there are specific local ordinances you should be following. You can also reach out to your local fire department to learn how to prepare. While these are only some actions you can take to stop the spread of wildfires—it can make your home and neighborhood much safer from wildfires.