Protecting Your Home from Wildfires

Editor’s Note:  Chief Sam Digiovanna was featured on Today in LA and gives advice on protecting your home from wildfires.  Below is a transcript of his appearance.

Adrian Arambulo: 43 right now, we are far from the peak of wildfire season here in Southern California, but we’ve already seen several significant brush fires this week. It’s already hot, dry, and things could get very dangerous once the Santa Ana winds pick up.

Daniella Guzman: At a couple yesterday, Chief Sam from the Verdugo Fire Academy joins us live this morning to talk about ways that you can change your home and make it be more fire resistant. So good morning, Chief. Can you hear us?

Chief Sam: Good morning. Yes, I can.

Daniella Guzman: Let’s start with the roof. Now you say it’s the most vulnerable part of any home. Why, and what can we do about it?

Chief Sam: Well, mostly it’s because of the wood shake wood shingle roofs, they’re very flammable. You get a brush fire, you get a lot of embers flying fanned by winds, they land on a rooftop, they take off and they take off very quickly or they access into the attic through the attic vents. And then let’s not forget one thing with the roofs is the soffits underneath those, those needs to be self-closed with stucco inside of them so that it protects them from the heat when it’s coming up through, say, the side of a hill next to your house.

Adrian Arambulo: Hi, Chief, you say it’s also important to make sure emergency vehicles can find and have access to your home. What exactly do you mean by that? What can people do to help out firefighters?

Chief Sam: Well first check with your fire department on what their code requirements are. But generally it’s around 10 feet of clearance for a roadway to get to your property. You have fire trucks coming in, you want them to have a good access to your home and a good eagerness in case they have to get out very quickly. So that’s very important and that drive should be cleared of hazardous vegetation. It could be the difference between getting a fire truck in to protect your property or not getting one inside.

Belen De Leon: Good morning to you Sam,  So nice to see you, at least virtually. Now this year, we have an added element of fire season so how will COVID-19 impact the preparation in the firefighting efforts?

Chief Sam: Well, the big thing is we are still preparing. There’s been a lot of now that some of the bans have been lifted where agencies are doing their multi agency training together to prepare for fire season. The biggest issue with COVID-19 is going to be what if there’s a second wave during the fall? That’s right when we have our Santa Ana winds. How do you keep social distancing when you evacuate communities of 10, 20 30, 40 50,000? And in addition, to set up a base camp for firefighters, you get 2000 firefighters in a base camp. How do you social distance them? That’s going to be a challenge.

Daniella Guzman: Again, sometimes Chief Sam, you talk about patio furniture and, and clearing out the garage right before because everything inside your garage could be flammable and also your patio furniture. How can people prepare that part of their home?

Chief Sam: Well, it’s good point and what you should do is take that patio furniture. Just like today, it’s gonna be a hot day today. It’s gonna be dry. Take the patio furniture, keep it away from your house. It’s very flammable with embers landing on those, they can start a fire. That’s the biggest concern with the patios. Within the garage, you want to make sure that it’s sealed at the bottom of your garage door. We have what’s called snow drifting. When a lot of hot ashes accumulate next to a garage door and it’s wood or it creeps underneath inside, ignites a garage door and brisket inside of the garage. Of course, now you have an extension into the house once the garage gets going.

Adrian Arambulo: Right, great advice. Chief Sam from the Verdugo Fire Academy. So nice to see you. Thank you, and please be safe.

Chief Sam: Thank you. You too.

About Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as fire chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif.  Sam also serves as Executive Vice President of Fire Operations at CORDICO INC.