Residents in and around St. Helena have a heightened awareness of fires and the absolute necessity of getting – and staying – prepared.
That’s excellent, but we have to keep it up. As an interdependent community, our lives and property depend on every person taking the initiative to be aware and prepared.
Last Friday, on what happened to be the 75th anniversary of Smokey Bear, we met with representatives of Cal Fire and local Fire Safe Councils. With the two-year anniversary of the Wine Country fires looming, they say locals are well-aware of this new world of Red Flag Warnings, Nixle alerts, emergency preparedness, defensible space, and all those other concepts that have taken on such terrifying urgency since October 2017.
None of the precautions we’re about to list are fun, and some of them aren’t cheap either. But they might save your life.
The most important thing you can do is develop a plan in case of a Red Flag Warning, which the National Weather Service issues based on high temperatures, dry vegetation and high wind – the typical recipe for a wildfire.
Subscribe to Nixle.com to be notified of Red Flag Warnings, which are also broadcast over the radio and posted at sthelenastar.com. When a warning is issued, take the steps listed on NapaFirewise.org and be ready to implement your own Family Disaster Plan. Watch for additional Nixle alerts.
If told to evacuate, get out as soon as you can. During a major evacuation, the roads will be packed, first responders will be stretched thin, and every second will count, so it’s crucial to have your most essential belongings ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Leave an “Evacuated” tag (available at the St. Helena Police Department) at the front of your property so first responders don’t waste precious minutes looking for you.
If you own property, especially in a rural area, you’re probably aware of how much fuel you have on your property in the form of dry trees and brush, versus how much you should have. If you need help, the county offers free chipping for rural residents living in a fire hazard zone. For details call 967-1426.
If you have questions or want to schedule an inspection, call the St. Helena Fire Department at 967-2880 (if you’re in the city limits) or the Napa County Fire Department at 337-5780 (if you’re outside the city limits).
If you own your own home, you can take steps to harden it against a fire. A contractor can advise you on fire-resistant building materials, dual-pane windows, and protecting vulnerable areas like vents, eaves, soffits, chimneys and gutters. You can start by installing screens on your vents and then work your way up from there, depending on your budget.
If you don’t have a smoke alarm, contact Norma Ferriz at the UpValley Family Centers (963-1919 or firstname.lastname@example.org) and arrange to get a free one, which will be provided and installed by the Red Cross on Sept. 14.
For those of us living in or around St. Helena, being fire-aware is our civic responsibility. If we let our guard down, we could be the next Paradise.