Saturday October 26th, 2019 was the first view of my house and my 2 neighbors' houses. Our 3 homes were burned in our little cul-de-sac on
Thursday October 24th, 2019 in the Tick Canyon Fire. I am overwhelmed and filled with gratitude by the kindness, compassion and generosity
of my friends, students and neighbors, most have never met me. The fire fighters were able to save the rest of the houses on our street
which is a miracle because I can see that the fire burned above, around and below us.
I wanted to share what I learned and hope that you will find it helpful
as the winds are going to be strong again. I may not get the technical
details 100% correct but I think this is the gist as was explained to me
by the fire fighter leader and gas expert. Forgive me please if you
already know this.
1. I left early due to the power outage at 11:30am Thursday and only
took my work and an overnight bag to a friend's house 40 mins south
to continue working. Even though I was prepared with my important ID papers in my rolling briefcase ready to go, I didn't take it with me. I
was not expecting fire because the power outage 2 weeks ago made me feel safe that when the power was shutoff, we were safe from
fires. Everything burned. It looked like a bomb went off in the middle of my house. I suggest getting a fire-proof safe unless you want to
take stuff with you every time you leave the house if you live alone or if it's in a safe-deposit box in a bank it's in an area far from fires which
then makes it inconvenient for you to retrieve it. ** 11/5/19 don't buy the $44.99 Sentry fire-proof safe, which is only fire-proof for 1/2hr.
My house burned for hours **
2. There was no evacuation or alerts on our street. Most people were at work or left early when the power shut off at 11:30am. A couple of
neighbors spotted a wisp starting on the nearest ridge around 3pmish and it was soon at my fence. One neighbor was banging on our doors and
tried to water the bushes around my house. Very quickly, it spread and she had to leave. She is my hero, and have my external gratitude.
The neighbor next to my house returned home and tried to save my house by watering my yard/house but the fire was too ferocious. He is
my hero too and my eternal gratitude. He then tried to save his house, unfortunately it burned. The reason there were no firefighters on our
street until later was because they were west of Shadow Pines working on saving the houses around Abelia that were burning. The winds
were changing directions so unpredictably, embers were flying everywhere.
3. One of the fire fighter leaders stopped by on Saturday and told me that watering lawns etc was a waste of time as the common way for
houses like mine to burn is via the embers getting blown through the attic vents and then swirling around inside before exploding. When that
happens, the fire fighters cannot go inside the house because they are suited up for brush fire fighting and not structural fire fighting. That
takes some time I am guessing to change clothes - maybe those quick change artists on "America's Got Talent" can give them some tips :-D. So
their focus at that point was to save my neighbors homes. I wonder why if this was the common way houses are burning, attic vents were
not created to be manually closed? ** corrections 11/5/19: houses built post 2006 in Santa Clarita have screens installed in the attic vents.
turning on the sprinklers and hosing lawns earlier before the fire is fully raging will help keep your house safe. Especially with hotspot flare-
ups. Lawn scorched, house safe. One homeowner installed sprinklers in their roof and their house didn't burn down even though their
backyard was on fire.**
4. The Gas expert was also at my house when it was burning and said that gas was swirling around and feeding the flames around my house and
no one could get near my house until he was able to shut off the gas at the driveway. He had to break through the concrete. He also told me
that when I rebuild, to get stucco eaves. I had wooden eaves. ** 11/5/19 Boxing in the eaves was another suggestion. **
5. The neighbors who stayed behind putting out hotspots after the fire fighters moved on somewhere else I am positive saved our
neighborhood from further losses. They are my heroes. I have a friend in Laguna Beach who's house and 1/2 of their neighbors house were
the only ones left standing after the 1993 fire. They had a pool and a pump. I'm not advocating staying behind putting your life at risk but
somewhere in between when there is no fire-fighters around, it sure would be nice to have a strong water source. I don't have a pool :-(
6. You cannot rely on the fire department or sheriff's department to evacuate you ahead of time because in high winds, the fire is moving too
fast and unpredictably and there is not enough personnel to go around. When the power was shut off, many people did not get the alerts. I
was in West Hills with power and didn't receive any alerts during the time my house was burning. I do not have a solution for this, perhaps a
suggestion, especially at night for each street/area, to set up a watch schedule so there's at least one person up and monitoring the hills
around your neighborhood.
** 11/5/19 I spoke with a neighbor who lost their home on another street in our neighborhood Friday Oct 25th. Due to the power outage,
they didn't receive any notification, alerts, no one banging on their door around 2:30am-ish. When the fire reached their house, he was able
to evacuate in the dark his wife, mother-in-law who does not speak English and have mobility challenges and his 2 dogs. His arm was burned
and his dog was on fire. Fortunately, they are both ok. It was a very close call for this family **
7. The neighbor whose house was next to our burning houses was not damaged. They used this special mix added to their exterior paint
which is insulating and fire retardant - insuladd.com 888-813 5065 and Flame Stop III 877-397-7867
8. I have to continue paying my mortgage even though I have no house. I'm with Wells Fargo - they are offering me a 30 day no late fee
charge but it will affect my credit score. oh joy.
9. I am soooo grateful I have good insurance coverage from Farmers Insurance. The loss of use will provide me with rental housing while my
house is being rebuilt. The claims adjuster is mailing me checks which I can use to get my basics and anything else I need. Like underwear. I
forgot they were burned in the fire :-)
Hope this helps.
Please stay safe and alert during the fire season. Take care!
ps. Some old photos of what my house was like 2003-2005. It became a lot more cluttered with my artwork in 2019 but I don't have photos :-
(. Happier times ....
|Learnings from Tick Canyon Fire in Canyon Country, CA
Thursday October 24th, 2019