The Cambrian

Plan now, before the fire

If a wildfire is heading toward your home, and you need to leave, where would you go? And would you be ready to do so in a hurry?

Those questions are centerpieces of a new “Ready, Set, Go!” fire-readiness plan to be presented to the Cambria Community Services District directors at a meeting Thursday, Aug. 19.

Cambria Fire Department personnel also will be spreading the word — and a information pamphlet prepared by Cal Fire — at the Cambria Farmers Market on Fridays, community meetings and perhaps even door-to-door in areas that are at the most risk, according to Cambria Fire Capt. Michael Gallagher.

The pamphlet includes suggestions for preparing now, before disaster strikes; a checklist of things to be aware of if a wildfire is approaching; evacuation procedures and emergency phone numbers; recommendations if someone must stay put ( “shelter in place”) rather than flee; and a map showing six local “safe refuge areas” for evacuees.

Firefighters recommend that, long before a fire strikes, residents provide defensible space around the home and prepare structures to reduce the likelihood of ember-triggered fire.

Gallagher said those destroy some 90 percent of homes lost in fire areas.

People should know where their essentials are (medicines, keys, insurance and legal documents) and know how to pack them quickly. If there’s a fire in the area, fire officials now advise gathering family members, pets and essentials and leaving as early as possible.

“We have to prepare for and consider the worst that can happen,” Gallagher said, especially since Cambria’s population of elderly citizens is about 20 percent higher than other California communities. Many elderly people have a harder time evacuating, he said.

“It’s a shared responsibility,” he said. “The community has the most to lose … there’s only so much a little department can do. We don’t want a giant fire to rip through here, burning homes and killing people before everybody wakes up to the risk.”