Anyone west of the Rocky Mountains should be concerned about wildfires. Even if you live in a city, you could be subject to loss of income if your economic well-being is impacted directly by an unpredictable wildfire. If you have been to the city of Santa Barbara, you know what a lovely place it is to visit.

It was cut off for days as a result of the Thomas Fire, a wildfire that raged between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The fire destroyed over 250,000 acres and 1,000 homes and killed 25 people. SoCal Edison allegedly caused the fire, which led to mudslides that devastated the community of Montecito and disabled the 101 freeway. The city sued SoCal Edison to recover economic damages. It was awarded nearly seven million dollars.


What Can I Do to Mitigate California Wildfire Damage?

There are many things that you can do to help mitigate wildfire damage. None of them are guaranteed to prevent damage, but they can help. First, you can create a safety zone around your home. The larger the safety zone, the better. Thirty feet should be a minimum goal. You will want to keep the vegetation in this zone to a minimum.

This includes removing vines from the walls of the house, moving shrubs that are close to the house, pruning trees and shrubs that are within fifteen feet of chimneys and stove pipes, and removing tree limbs within fifteen feet of the ground. All landscaping vegetation is potential fuel for a wildfire. Be sure to thin a fifteen-foot space between tree crowns. See the Board of Forestry’s Defensible Space Guidelines for more information.

Replace any plants that are highly flammable, including pine, evergreen, eucalyptus, junipers, and fir trees, with appropriate trees. Be sure to cut your lawn often, if you have one, and clear your property of leaves, brush, dead limbs, and fallen trees. If you keep firewood, keep it at least one hundred feet away and uphill from the house. Similarly, do not leave your gas grill and tank within fifteen feet of your house.

Remember, fires move more quickly uphill. The more of a slope you live on, the more protected space you will need, particularly on the downhill side.

Aside from clearing vegetation, there are other changes that you can make to your home. Make sure that your roof is as safe as possible. Avoid combustible roof types and keep your rain gutters clear of leaves and flammable debris. Use siding that is treated or treat it if you can. Porches, sundecks, and any balconies should be made of non-combustible materials.

Windows and drapes can also help you to reduce your fire risks. Any vents located on the exterior attic or under the eaves should be covered with wire mesh to keep embers out. If you are wondering what to replace some of the vegetation in your landscape plan with, you might want to consider a fountain or hot tub. This would give you something to gather around in case of a fire.


What are the Legalities Involved in Securing my Property Against Wildfires?

For homeowners in a State Responsibility Area, you are responsible for making sure that your property complies with California state law. Building and fire codes call on occupants to take proactive steps to protect themselves from wildfire.

You must clear flammable materials within 100 feet of your building or property line to create a defensible buffer. This buffer can halt the progress of a wildfire and provide safe space for firefighters while they try to keep your home safe.

If you are building a new home, make sure that you are aware of the new fire laws. For example, you must build your home with fire-resistant materials. You should also check your local laws. They may be more stringent than state law. In San Diego County, for example, the first and second zones in defensible space are both fifty feet, while elsewhere, they are thirty and seventy feet.


When Should I Involve My Attorney After a Wildfire?

If you have significant damages, you should speak with an expert attorney right away. They can spot issues that might not be obvious and save you much consternation and loss. They will instruct you on how to make an inventory of what was lost. They will know insurance law and how to present your damages in a manner that will be more likely to be settled.

If you are dislocated, they can help make sure that you receive replacement housing. Similarly, if you are subject to the loss of your car, they will help you obtain a rental car. A competent attorney will make sure you have the documents you need to obtain housing and a rental car so that you are not wasting time on that. At the end of the day, you have the right to be treated fairly and restored to whole.

Our attorneys have the experience and the passion to try to make that happen for you. There is a likelihood that you will be distracted by rebuilding what you lost and not want to be distracted by filling out repetitive legal papers.

The experienced attorneys at Ellis Riccobono LLP invite you to meet with them if you have any questions about the information you read above. The experts at our firm have represented a multitude of people who have suffered losses, including the loss of a home or a loved one.

We have plenty of experience negotiating with insurance companies and forcing them to pay what is due. We are dedicated to ensuring that you will be compensated fully by those responsible for causing the fire that caused the losses that you have suffered. We live and work in California communities and want to be of service to you in a time of need.

Call (530) 358-8810 or email today for a free consultation to learn what we can recover for you.