CAL FIRE Tips for Strengthening Your Home Against Wildfires ¡En Español! AND in English!

Burned debris from the Fairview Fire in West Bishop in early July.

At the urging of Crystal Medhurst, Defensible Space Outreach Coordinator for Mammoth Lakes, Friends of the Inyo focused its latest Amigos de Nuestras Tierras (“Friends of Our Lands”) column in this week’s (Sept. 8 – 14) issue of local Spanish-language newspaper El Sol de la Sierra ( on the extremely useful life-and-death information from the CAL FIRE website,, to help locals a) create a defensible space around their home, b) harden or strengthen their home against fire, and c) develop and emergency kit and evacuation plan that takes into account all family members and pets in the household in case an evacuation order should go into effect for their area.

“Defensible space is the buffer between your home and the surrounding vegetation. Constructing your home with fire-resistive materials (home hardening) will protect your home from heat, flames, and embers. Creating a defensible space buffer with home hardening will make slower or stop the spread of wildfire,” Natalie Morrow, Division Chief for the Mammoth Lakes Fire Protection District wrote in an e-mail.

You can read the front-page article in Spanish here (please be sure to share it with your Spanish-speaking friends and neighbors), or pick up a FREE copy of El Sol de la Sierra in businesses throughout Mono and Inyo Counties.

Following is an English translation of our column.

Friends of Our Lands:
How to defend and strengthen your home against wildfire

Spanish-Language Story and English Translation, and photo, by Louis Medina, Friends of the Inyo Communications and Philanthropy Director

In the middle of the afternoon on July 8, my neighborhood in West Bishop was on fire.

From the center of the city, where my office is, I could see the dense smoke that strong winds were blowing toward the north.

I was only able to get as close as the intersection of West Line Street and Reata Road, from where access to my street, Watterson Road, located half a mile to the southeast, was closed. They were only allowing rescue vehicles through.

I was worried about my three cats, who were home alone. I only knew that the fire had spread from the houses to the surrounding countryside, which is why even a helicopter was involved in the firefighting effort, doing water drops on the flames.

Fortunately for me, my house was not damaged and my cats, although a little scared, were safe. But I feel sorry for my neighbors who suffered huge losses.

In total, nine homes burned, as well as vehicles, trees, bushes and electrical poles, and, unfortunately, some goats that some neighbors were raising died. A number of  propane tanks also exploded.

What can we do to protect ourselves from fires?

In the case of the Fairview Fire, as they ended up calling the blaze that destroyed half of my neighborhood, the conflagration started in a home and then turned into a wildfire; but the opposite tends to occur more frequently each year in the Sierra Nevada due to global warming and the drought.

The reality is that throughout Inyo and Mono counties, we live in rural areas where homes are found in close proximity to forests, fields, meadows and other areas where wild vegetation can quickly become fuel as the result of a lightning strike or a single, wayward spark.

The wind fans the flames and carries the embers and sparks sometimes up to a mile away, and these fall on roofs or slip through ventilation slots and are responsible for the destruction of most properties during a wildfire. Direct flames and radiant heat from burning vegetation or nearby structures can also cause your home to catch fire.

That is why the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CAL FIRE (, has lots of tips in English and Spanish to help the public strengthen their home and the space around it to give it more chances of surviving a wildfire.

It all starts with information.

By visiting the Spanish [or English] pages of the website, you can find a lot of practical information from CAL FIRE for protecting your home from wildfires, and your family and pets during an evacuation.

You will learn how to create a “defensible space” around your home, free of weeds, dead plants, fallen leaves, including in roof gutters, tree branches hanging over the roof, piles of firewood leaning against an outside wall, and many more tips.

You’ll also find information on modifications to make your home more fire-resistant, for example: covering with metal mesh your home’s ventilation ducts to prevent the entry of embers from the outside; installing double-pane windows with one pane of tempered glass  to reduce the possibility of windows shattering during a fire; and using fire-resistant materials on roofs, walls, outdoor decks and porches, fences, etc.

Finally, you will be able to download a series of brochures that will help you develop an evacuation plan and an emergency kit that takes into account all your loved ones in the household, pets and farm animals that must be transported to a safe zone when there is an evacuation order from the fire department in your area.

We cannot predict where or when a wildfire will occur, but with the help of information resources from CAL FIRE, we can take steps to better protect our home and loved ones, including our beloved pets.

Until next time, let’s all continue to be “Friends of Our Lands.”

Louis Medina is Director of Communications and Philanthropy for Friends of the Inyo. If you have any questions, you can write to him at, or call him at 760.873.6500.