LOS ANGELES, Calif. (July 17, 2012) – The National Weather Service has reported some areas of California received up to 20 less inches of rain than expected during the October 2011- June 2012 period, making it one of the driest so-called rainy seasons on record. California’s below-average rainfall causes green grass and plant life to dry out earlier than usual, and when combined with high summer temperatures, this greatly increases the risk of wildfires.
Wildfires have already spread across 2.1 million acres in several states, so the Department of Forestry & Fire Protection has increased staffing and urges residents to educate themselves about fire preparedness because, “it only takes one little spark to ignite a wildfire.”
Joanna Moore, Mercury Insurance chief claims officer, says, “California experienced more than 800 wildfires before the ‘wildfire season’ even began on May 28, accounting for more than two and a half times the amount that occurred during the same period in 2011. It is imperative that California homeowners in fire susceptible areas take a variety of precautions to protect themselves this summer.”
Mercury Insurance Group has compiled some important wildfire tips to help prepare for the next few months:
· Create a fire buffer zone of at least 30 feet around houses. Increase this space to 50 feet if you live in a high wildfire risk area. Remove all buildup of needles and leaves from roofs and gutters. Keep tree limbs cut back at least 10 feet from chimneys and remove dry limbs overhanging the home and garage. Finally, plant native fire resistant plants and create low fuel hardscapes.
· Replace exterior flammable materials on homes with siding and roofs that have at least a fire-resistance rating of one to two hours. Fire-retardant roof materials such as tile are recommended. Exterior home walls should be built with materials like stucco or brick and have double-pane and tempered windows. Do not connect wood fences to your home and place screens over vents to prevent embers from entering your home. California law requires a spark arrestor constructed of 12-gauge minimum welded or woven wire mesh screen with openings no larger than a half-inch over your chimney outlet.
· Move flammable and combustible items at least 50 feet from your home. Firewood, outdoor patio furniture, picnic tables, boats, propane tanks, etc., should be clear of homes and other structures.
· Keep irrigation systems in working order. Check hoses and sprinkler systems to ensure proper functionality and coverage of your entire home, including roofs and exterior structure walls. Have a ladder available to access roofs.
· Pools can serve as a water source for fighting fires. Have your pool accessible for fire engines to get within 10 feet. Pumps with suction hoses that reach the bottom of the pool can also be used.
· Have your home address visible from the street so emergency crews can quickly identify your home during an emergency.
These and other helpful tips for what to do during a wildfire – as well as fire kits for the home – are available at www.mercuryinsurance.com/insurance-products/insurance-tips.html. Additional details can be found at www.fire.ca.gov and www.firewise.org. Check your local ordinances for fire preparation guidelines.
ABOUT MERCURY INSURANCE (www.mercuryinsurance.com)
Mercury Insurance (MCY) is a multiple-line insurance organization offering predominantly personal automobile and homeowners insurance through a network of independent agents and brokers in California, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, New York, Georgia, Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Mercury has specialized in offering quality insurance at affordable prices since 1962 – core values that distinguish Mercury in the marketplace.