Steve Buffington remembers the destruction wrought by the Freeway Complex Fire of 2008.
The longtime resident of Anaheim Hills speaks of the randomness of the blaze’s path of destruction, with some houses next to the fire surviving while others far away went up in smoke after floating embers torched them. The final tally: more than 30,000 acres charred, more than 300 homes and businesses incinerated and about 40,000 people evacuated.
Unfortunately for Buffington and other local residents, the ongoing drought has created local fire conditions that might even be worse today. Thankfully, he and the 500 people who turned out Saturday, Oct. 17 for the annual “Ready, Set, Go!” block party learned some important tips about how to protect themselves and their property from future wildfires.
“This is a good reminder,” said Buffington of the event, which Anaheim Fire & Rescue sponsored and which took place at Anaheim Fire Station No. 10 on E. Monte Vista Drive.
At the event, about 30 uniformed firefighters mingled with families. Little children had their faces painted and pictures taken with Smokey Bear. Smoke alarms and other prizes were raffled. Several city agencies set up information booths.
Participants enjoyed free hot dogs and chips, washing them down with cold bottled water. Fire trucks and engines were on display, including one with a 75-foot ladder and another that allows firefighters to spray water even while the vehicle moves.
Perhaps the highlight of the three-hour event was the unveiling of the FireSafe Demonstration House, a permanent addition to the fire station that will serve as an important educational tool. The house, made possible by donations from partners including Brookfield Residential, Allied Building Materials and Major League Roofers, will “be a place for residents to come out in the future and learn how to protect their houses,” said Anaheim Fire Marshal Jeff Lutz.
The fireproofed house features a roof made of non-combustible materials and with no bird stops or other areas for fire embers to settle; covered eaves to prevent ember collection underneath; gutters clear of combustible debris; and screened vents to keep out embers.
During the festivities, many attendees picked up fire safety information packets, including the “Ready, Set, Go!” booklet. The RSG program aims to help residents learn how they can better protect their homes against and react during brushfires.
Among the tips:
Homeowners can Ready their property by:
- Creating a buffer zone of at least 100 feet free of weeds, brush and other vegetation
- Moving firewood away from houses
- Installing dual-paned windows to reduce the chance of breakage in a fire
- Covering external vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home
“If you set up your house the right way, there’s a very good chance it will survive a fire,” said Pat Russell, deputy chief of operations at Anaheim Fire and Rescue.
Homeowners must be Set to react quickly by:
- Alerting family and neighbors
- Having an emergency supply kit on hand that includes necessities such as ample drinking water, a battery powered radio and flashlight
- Turning off propane tanks and other gas at the meter, time permitting
Homeowners must act early and Go by:
- Evacuating early if there is a possible threat to their home
“If there’s a fire in Corona or nearby, you’re not going to help us by staying,” Lutz said. “Go!”
Anaheim Hills resident John Yoo said the event inspired him to check his smoke alarms when he returned home. Sitting beside his smiling 9-year-old son, Michael, he said he felt glad he had come.
“This gives me ideas on what I can do about fire prevention and what I can do right now,” he said. “And my son is having a blast interacting with firefighters, winning prizes and playing games.
“I’d give this five stars out of five stars on Yelp,” Yoo added.
More tips to protect your home in the event of a wildland fire can be found at anaheim.net