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It's fire season. Are you prepared? Make lean, clean halo around house

March 18, 2007|Gayle Pollard-Terry | Times Staff Writer

Fire season came early this year in Southern California. Extreme drought, low humidity that has pulled moisture from already dry brush, hot weather and Santa Ana winds have exacerbated conditions. And recent blazes, in Anaheim Hills for example, should be putting homeowners throughout the Southland on notice.

Fire prevention officials advise clearing away all combustible material, especially grass, weeds, leaves, needles and tree branches, to create a safety zone of at least 100 yards around the house, and 200 yards in high-hazard areas like hillside communities. Fire-resistant plants, well-watered and properly trimmed, also can be beneficial.

Property owners, unsure of how to prepare, can get guidance from local fire department websites, such as Los Angeles' website, at www.lafd.org; Riverside County's, www.rvcfire.org; and Ventura County's, at www.fire.countyofventura.org.

Some sites also list requirements, penalties, a tip-line to report scofflaws and brush-clearing services.

Recommendations include trimming grass and weeds to 3 inches or less, cutting back overgrown brush, removing tree branches that are closer than 6 feet to the ground and 5 feet to the roof, clearing the roof of debris that could catch fire and getting rid of dead plants.

Some insurers are also offering advice. Among them, the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. recommends creating a "lean, green and clean" halo around the house; using noncombustible materials on roofs, decks and fences; eliminating "a fire pathway directly to your house" formed by loose limbs, overgrown bushes and scattered debris; tightly managing any wooded areas on the property; bringing in flammable patio furniture or other items if fire encroaches in the neighborhood; and making sure firefighters have room to maneuver close enough to the house to put out a fire.

gayle.pollard-terry@latimes .com

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