[heading] by WYNNE LOVE [/heading]

Over the past decade, many Rancho Bernardo homeowners have seen firsthand the worst a fire can do. The Cedar Fire of 2003 and Witch Creek Fire of 2007 burned over 250 homes in Rancho Bernardo zip codes alone. This year, “we are looking at some pretty good fire activity already,” warned Chief Jim Sturtevant of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire District. A drier summer, he explained, may well lead to greater fire activity this fall, and communities that have previously burned are just as vulnerable as ever.

The city has a wealth of resources available online to help educate and assist homeowners in the best defense against wildfire. While Chief Sturtevant stressed, “What saves local structures is having that hundred feet of defensible space.” But he also acknowledges that there is no single way to protect homes threatened by wildfire.

Fellow firefighter David June of Station 40 in Ranch Penasquitos agreed. Having fought the Witch Creek fire in Rancho Bernardo himself, June saw firsthand how cedar fences and palm trees can fuel the fire and worse, how embers carried by unpredictable winds can put any house at risk. “There’s no rhyme or reason to what fire will do,” he said, so he also emphasized the importance of properly securing your home before you leave it by closing doors and windows.

[quote] “What saves local structures is having that hundred feet of defensible space.”  ~ Fire Chief Jim Sturtevant, Rancho Santa Fe Fire District [/quote]

June also recommends homeowners have important documents saved off premises and critical paper and digital files centralized so they can be packed easily. June emphasizes the importance of knowing how to secure your utilities, encourages registration on Alert San Diego, and insists you should have an escape route and a rendezvous point planned. June also stressed the importance of being ready to evacuate, even if you live in a “shelter-in-place” community, as many Rancho Bernardo residents do. “It’s a good idea to keep a full tank of gas in the car this time of year,” said June. “If you are in the direct path of the fire, you should always evacuate no matter what.”

“It pays to be ready,” agreed Chief Sturtevant. Reading up and preparing now can save you precious moments, not to mention your valuables, later. Download your own “Family Disaster Plan and Survival Guide” by visiting ReadySanDiego.org and make time to talk about it with your family, so you can keep them, and your home, safe this season.