Disaster Prep: Fire

Fires may originate from trees and shrubs surrounding San Rafael, ignited by natural causes such as lightening or by human carelessness or acts of arson, or they may originate from electrical failures within houses. Earthquakes can also start fires. The Pt. San Pedro Road corridor is fortunate in that we are bounded by water, other communities, and grassland. However, we have pockets of dense vegetation, including broom and eucalyptus, that could aggravate a fire. Historically, most bad fires in Marin County have occurred in September and October. The worst conditions are when there are hot, offshore, northeast winds.

The severity of a fire is governed by the “fire triangle”: weather, topography, and fuel. Fuel is the only one of these over which we have some control. The primary considerations for managing fuel are landscape design, roofing, siding, windows, and vents.  This section also covers house fire preparation and response as well as wildland fires.

Wildland Fire

Preparing

Have a Class A roof on your house. For a detailed discussion of how to protect your home from a wildland fire, see www.FireSafeMarin.org, especially the information under “Resources.” and “Defensible Space”. Also, there is a great deal of information at http://www.cityofsanrafael.org/firevegetation on preparing your residence with defensible space against fire risks.

Responding

Report the fire.

  • From a landline phone, call 911.
  • To call in a fire emergency to San Rafael from a cell phone, dial 453-1515.

Assess the danger. If the fire is local and small, use a hose to defend your immediate area. However, if the fire is large and wind is bringing it rapidly toward you, evacuate.

If you are trapped inside by a wildfire:

  • Pull combustibles away from windows.
  • Retreat to the lee side of the house (the side away from the wind) until the fire has passed.
  • If smoke is in the house, breathe through a damp cloth.

House Fire

Preparing

Install smoke detectors. Inspect periodically to ensure batteries are not dead. Carbon monoxide detectors are also useful.

Keep one or more small fire extinguishers around. Carbon dioxide (CO2) dispensers are most useful for ordinary combustible fires of less than 3 square feet. Foam extinguishers are useful for flammable liquid (e.g., paint thinner or gasoline) or electrical fires up to about 40 square feet.

List and discuss the exits from different points in the home. Make sure windows and doors operate. If the home is more than one story, or one side fronts on a steep drop-off, consider having a foldable ladder accessible in that area.

Store combustible materials, especially flammable liquids and chemicals, well away from sources of ignition (pilot lights, motors).

Responding

Report the fire.

  • From a landline phone, call 911.
  • To call in a fire emergency to San Rafael from a cell phone, dial 453-1515.

Deploy water or fire extinguishers. To use an extinguisher, pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, squeeze the trigger, and sweep.

If the fire is out of hand, evacuate.