The open space, vistas, and nourishing see breezes on the Palos Verdes Peninsula give a sense of safety and wellbeing. But behind this natural beauty lurks a danger that threatens all. Wildfire.

Extreme fire weather is becoming more common throughout California and any neighborhood near wild vegetation is at risk of being inflamed. Community members of the Palos Verdes Peninsula need to defend themselves against ongoing wildfire threats.

Whether a homeowner or renter, commercial or residential property manager, everyone plays a part in protecting themselves and their neighbors from a wildfire. We all have an impact. Below are the essentials of structure protection that anyone can do.

#1: Your Structure

Your structure must be maintained to survive an assault by firebrands — those burning embers caught in the wind and pushed well ahead of a fire. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firebrands are the leading cause of structure loss. Below are five things that anyone can, and should, do to protect your home:

  • Sweep leaves and dead material from roof, rain gutters and immediately around structure.
  • Inspect all openings and vents on your structure, looking closely at attic vents. Salt air corrodes metal mesh screens. Replace the inexpensive screens if necessary.
  • Fill all fissures and cracks on the skin of the building.
  • Clean, fill gaps and paint undersides of eaves.
  • Check and replace the weatherization around windows, doors and garage doors.

#2: The First 5 Feet Around Your Home

Flames elongate next to vertical surfaces and if a fire starts next to your home, even a small one, its flames can lengthen to reach vulnerable trim and openings. Some of the ignitable items commonly found within 5 feet of a home include recyclables, stored wood, tools, toys and trash. Residents should:

  • Remove the clutter: Items are either stored inside, in a non-flammable shed, or 30 feet away from a structure.
  • Prune and remove all dead, dying and diseased vegetation.
  • Irrigate plants around a house to ensure proper leaf moisture.
  • Keep limbs of trees and large shrubs 15 feet from a structure and 10 feet above its roof.
  • Remove dry woody mulches.

#3: Defensible Space

The areas immediately around your house should be able to withstand firebrands and intense heat without igniting. Below are five tasks that require little money, but have a huge impact:

  • Prune and remove all dead, dying and diseased vegetation.
  • Paint, repair and replace landscape features, such as shade and play structures.
  • Irrigate ornamental plants to ensure proper leaf moisture.
  • Cut all non-irrigated ground covers to 4 inches.
  • Remove ground covers and vines scrambling up fences, shade structures, shrubs, trees and utility poles.

For the residents of Palos Verdes, living safely alongside fire threats means paying attention to your immediate surroundings and taking action to reduce risks associated with wildfires. We all have an impact—we all make a difference in the wellbeing of our families and neighbors.

For more information about fire protection, please the join the free, online firescaping workshop hosted by the West Basin Municipal Water District on April 21 at 6 p.m. Register at www.westbason.org/firescaping.

Douglas Kent MS, MLA is author of Firescaping, a best-selling book on homesite protection in the U.S., and the guest speaker at the West Basin PV Firescaping workshop.

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