Red Flag Warnings
Fire Safety: What does a “Red Flag Warning” mean? What should you do?
Many residents in Sonoma County live in or near fire danger. For those who do live in a high fire area, knowing what to do when conditions are ideal for a forest (or urban fire) is essential. A Red Flag Warning alert issued by the National Weather Service is a time when conditions for a fire are at the highest.
Three criteria are considered prior to issuing a red flag warning. These measurable readings include:
. Sustained wind speeds
. Relative humidity
. 10-hour fuel moisture.
The US National Weather Service warning is to inform area fire fighters and land management agencies that conditions are ideal for wild-land fire combustion. Cal Fire and local fire agencies all go on a high alert status under these conditions. The Santa Ana winds can occur in Southern California several times a year, but in Northern California, Red Flag Warnings from the Diablo (northeasterly) winds usually only occur once or twice a year - usually in fall or late summer when very dry conditions prevail.
- Make sure garden hoses are on and are extended throughout your garden with spray nozzles attached; best practice is to never leave a garden hose randomly piled up as it will always tangle – if you want it coiled, coil it in equal sized oval loops with each successive loop offset few inches in the same direction.
- All portable propane tanks (BBQ, smoker, etc.) should be turned off and moved away from your house.
- If you have a pool: in an emergency, a pressure washer can be used to pump water from your pool and should be left in an available location; fire fighters should have clear access to your pool.
- Decks should be cleared above and below of flammable objects.
- Gas cans – for lawn mowers, chippers, whatever – should be moved away from house or garage/barn.
- Cover firewood stacks next to house with a fire resistant cover.
- Make sure cell phones are charged and ready for alerts and within hearing at all times.
- Close exterior doors and windows. Leave doors unlocked. Leave lights on inside and outside of house.
- If you have a ladder, leave it available outside, next to the house, in case fire fighters need to access roof.
- Have all your evacuation supplies such as flashlights and a good portable radio ready to go.
- Make sure your cars have plenty of gas and are parked outside, or garage door is capable of manual operation and all capable family members know how to open it.
- If appropriate, shut off gas supply line at the meter.
Some things to do well in advance:
- Make an evacuation plan and collect all necessary supplies.
- Clean gutters and roof debris regularly.
- Where possible, install mesh screening to prevent burning material from blowing under decks.
- Move firewood piles away from house.
- If you have a pool, research the special pump systems that are available for fire fighting.
- For more information obtain a free brochure: “Living with Fire in Sonoma County” from fire agencies of Sonoma County, or online at http://www.firesafesonoma.org/main/sites/default/files/living_with_fire.pdf.
Author: Phil McRae 4/20/2018