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Fire Safety and Prevention

Smoke Detectors
Fires and burns are the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States, accounting for more than 5,000 deaths each year. Residential fires account for about 80 percent of those fires and burn deaths. Three out of five U.S. deaths occur in homes without smoke detectors. A working smoke detector in the home increases the chance of survival of a residential fire by two to three times. Smoke detectors should be installed in all sleeping rooms, hallways leading to sleeping rooms, basements and each additional level of your home. If you do not have a smoke detector in your home now is the time to get one, before you or a member of your family become a statistic. If you have a smoke detector remember to replace the battery once a year to ensure that in the event you have a fire in your home the smoke detector will work. Replacement of the battery should occur at the same time every year. Pick a time of year to replace the battery. A good time is daylight savings time. When you change your clock, change your battery. 

Power Line Safety
Down power lines can present a life-threatening situation to any individual if handled improperly. Emergency personnel treat all down lines as "energized" due to the potential electrocution hazard. Not all energized lines spark dramatically or dance around the ground as they do in television and film. Cable, telephone, or electrical lines lying still on they ground may be energized in spite of their innocent appearance. DO NOT MOVE any downed lines. Allow the professionals form PG&E to safely assess and resolve the hazard. If you are ever trapped in a vehicle that is in contact with a downed line, you should always wait until emergency help arrives. Do not exit your vehicle until instructed to do so by a qualified emergency responder. If you are in transit and spot toppled trees vs. power lines, use an alternative travel route, and dial 9-1-1.

Clear All Flammable Vegetation Around Your House
In the event of a fire in the community you can help us to help you by providing defensible space that firefighters will need to save your home in a fire. Defensible space means clearing all flammable vegetation a minimum of 100' around your property or to your property line. Limb trees 6-8 feet from the ground and keep your roof and gutters free from pine needles and leaves.

Now that I've cleared around my home what do i do with the material?
The Fire Brigade unfortunately does not have a chipper program to assist with removal of material  Waste Management offers a green waste program in addition to trash and recycle. You can rent chippers from local tool and equipment rental businesses.  If you are comfortable you can obtain a burn permit from our website to burn your piles safely following the regulations contained within the permit.

Chimney Fires - An Ounce Of Prevention...
As you snuggle in front of a cozy fire or bask in the warmth of your wood stove, you are taking part in a ritual of comfort and enjoyment handed down through the centuries. The last thing you are likely to be thinking about is the condition of your chimney. However, if you don't give some thought to it before you light those winter fires, your enjoyment may be very short-lived. Why? Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, which damage structures, destroy homes and injure or kill people.

Chimney fires can burn explosively - noisy and dramatic enough to be detected. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying airplane. However, those are only the chimney fires you know about. Slow-burning chimney fires don't get enough air nor have enough fuel to be as dramatic or visible. But, the temperatures they reach are very high and can cause as much damage to the chimney structure - and nearby combustible parts of the house - as their more spectacular cousins. With proper chimney system care, chimney fires are entirely preventable.

Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to safely contain wood-fueled fires, while providing heat for a home. The chimneys that serve them have the job of expelling the by-products of combustion, the substances given off when wood burns. As these substances exit the fireplace or wood stove, and flow up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs. The resulting residue that sticks to the inner walls of the chimney is called creosote. Creosote is black or brown in appearance. It can be crusty and flaky, tar-like, drippy and sticky, or shiny and hardened. Often, all forms will occur in one chimney system.

Certain conditions encourage the buildup of creosote. Restricted air supply, unseasoned wood and cooler-than normal chimney temperatures are all factors that can accelerate the buildup of creosote on chimney flue walls.

The air supply on fireplaces may be restricted by closed doors on the fireplace or by a failure to open the damper wide enough to move heated smoke up the chimney rapidly (the longer the smoke's "residence time" in the flue, the more likely it is that creosote will form). A wood stove's air supply can be limited by closing down the stove damper or air inlets too soon and too much, and by improperly using the stovepipe damper to restrict air movement.

Burning unseasoned firewood is unwise because so much energy is used initially just to drive off the water trapped in the cells of the wood, which keeps the resulting smoke cooler, as it moves through the system, than if dried, seasoned wood is used.

In the case of wood stoves, fully packed loads of wood (that give large cool fires and eight or ten hour burn times) contribute to creosote buildup. Condensation of the unburned by-products of combustion also occurs more rapidly in an exterior chimney, for example, than in a chimney that runs through the center of a house and exposes only the upper reaches of the flue to the elements.  

Since chimney fires can occur without anyone being aware of them and since damage from such fires can endanger a home and it occupants, how do you tell if you've experienced a chimney fire?
Here are the signs a professional chimney sweep looks for:

· "Puffy" creosote, with rainbow colored streaks, which has expanded beyond creosotes normal form.
· Warped metal of the damper, metal smoke chamber, connector pipe or factory-built metal chimney.
· Cracked or collapsed flue tiles, or tiles with large chunks missing.
· Discolored and distorted rain cap
· Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground
· Roofing material damaged from hot creosote
· Cracks in exterior masonry
· Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners

If you realize a chimney fire is occurring, follow these steps:
1) Get everyone out of the house, including yourself.
2) Call 9-1-1

If you can do so without risk to yourself, these additional steps may help save your home. Remember, however, that homes are replaceable, but lives are not!
1) Close the doors on the fireplace
2) Close the air inlets on the wood stove
3) Use a garden hose to spray down the roof (not the chimney) so the fire won't spread to the rest of the structure.

Chimney fires don't have to happen. Here are some ways to avoid them:
· Use seasoned woods only (dryness is more important than hard wood versus soft wood considerations).
· Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or Christmas trees
· Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures where wood stoves are in use, so you can adjust burning practices as needed.
· If you suspect or have had a chimney fire, do not use the chimney until it has been inspected by a professional chimney sweep
· Have your chimney inspected and cleaned on a regular basis

Disaster Preparedness Is So Important 
As we have all learned from El Nino's torrential rains, disaster can strike quickly and without warning. Disaster is not limited to rains, but can include earthquakes or fire. It can force you to evacuate or confine you to your home. Once disaster strikes you don't have time to shop or search for supplies. If you've gathered supplies in advance your family can endure an evacuation or home confinement. Although the torrential rains of El Nino are now behind us disaster preparedness should never cease. For disaster remember the acronym P.I.P.E.S. (Prepare, Include, Pre-designate, Evacuate, Shut-off)

Prepare your disaster supply kit!

A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day).
Food that won't spoil, minimum of a three-day supply (rotate your stored food every six months).  
One change of clothing and footwear per person.
One sleeping bag or blanket per person.
Matches, candles.
Sanitation supplies.
Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.
An extra pair of eye glasses.
An extra set of car keys.
Cooking source.
Fire extinguisher. 
Cash or traveler's checks.
A first aid kit that includes your family's prescriptions medications (Consult your pharmacist about storing prescription medications).
Emergency tools including battery powered radios, flashlights and plenty of extra batteries.
Keep items in airtight plastic bags.
Re-think your kit and family needs at least once a year, remembering to replace batteries, update clothes, etc.
Store these supplies in a manner that will not allow them to be damaged by floodwaters in sturdy, easy to carry containers such as backpacks, duffel bags or covered trash containers.  
Keep the gas tank on your car at least half full at all times.

Pre-designate a family member or friend that is out of the area as a contact point, preferably out of state if possible. Once you reach safety, call your contact point as soon as possible to let them know that you are safe and where you will be staying. Inform all family members and friends of your contact point. Having an out of the area contact point is especially critical during disasters due to the fact that phone lines may be damaged in a wide area of the county. If all friends and family members call your contact point you will have one central location to check on loved ones, as well as reassuring them of your safety.

Evacuate IMMEDIATELY if told to do so. Listen to your battery-powered radio and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. Know the local emergency broadcast station (KSCO 1080 AM-Santa Cruz, KTOM 100.7 FM-Salinas). Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes, take your Disaster Supplies Kit, and lock your home. Use travel routes specified by local authorities. Don't use shortcuts, as certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.  

Shut off water, gas and electricity if instructed to do so before you evacuate, if you're sure you have time. Locate in advance the main electric fuse box, water service main and gas main. Learn how and when to turn these utilities off. Teach all responsible family members. Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves. Remember, turn of the utilities only if you suspect the lines are damaged or if you are instructed to do so. If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on.

Have Your Address Posted And Visible
Once again it is time for me to stand up on my soapbox and ask that you please obtain and post your address at the end of your driveway so the Fire Brigade can find you easily. Numbers should be a minimum of 4" in height and should be reflective to be easily read at night from both directions of travel. Please remember that emergency vehicles at times can come from up the canyon or down the canyon and it is important that we are able to read your address no matter which direction we come from. Most people want to protect their privacy or believe that they moved to this area to avoid complying with rules of the city and then of course, nothing will ever happen to them, right? Some also think only about a house fire, which would be easily

recognizable, but what about an emergency medical situation, where seconds count? If we can't find you, we can't help. Please do not use pole numbers or mile markers to substitute for an address, remember fire apparatus come from two directions and we do not have electrical poles on our response maps. I would also like to point out the ever-present threat of a wildland fire. I can tell you from experience that during a wildland fire, resources will be arriving from all over the state. Many of our roads look like driveways and some driveways are hard if not impossible to find even knowing the area. You want the firefighters to be able to identify your home quickly. If you don't have an address you can obtain one easily by contacting the Monterey County Department of Public Works at (831) 755-4800 or by writing them at 312 E. Alisal Street, Salinas, CA 93901. You will need to supply your assessors parcel number and a check for $25.00. You can even obtain an address from Public Works for vacant property. Once you obtain your address please call the Fire Brigade with your name, assessors parcel number, phone number and address. The Fire Brigade will make sure that your new address is added to the response books. All information is strictly confidential and will not be shared with any other public agency! Remember when the Heat is on, seconds count.

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