June is National Safety Month. It's also the start of wildfire season. Dry brush combined with high winds can turn a stray spark into a catastrophe.
Homes or vacation spots in remote areas such as in the foothills or mountains may be at greatest risk, but a few precautions can help protect any home anywhere. Here are some basic safety guidelines for fire season:
Keep your garden hose connected to the water spigot throughout the fire season.
Keep the following tools ready and handy: a round-point shovel with a long handle, a rake with a long handle, a ladder tall enough to reach the roof, one or more 5-pound fire extinguishers, at least one bucket and a garbage can full of water with a bailing bucket.
When mowing, always work early in the morning. Make sure power tools have spark arresters to prevent equipment-caused fires.
Maintain "defensible space" of 100 feet around your home by cleaning up dead branches, leaves and needles and watering regularly. Clean dead leaves and pine needles from roof and gutters. Cut weeds and grasses to 6 inches or shorter. Remove lower tree branches at least 6 feet from the ground so fire can't climb up.
As part of your defensible space, reduce ground cover and shrub height to less than 12 inches within 30 feet of your home and less than 18 inches within 100 feet.
Clear flammable vegetation at least 10 feet from roads and 5 feet from driveways.
Never prune near power lines. Call your local utility company first.
Cover your chimney outlet and stovepipe with nonflammable 1/2-inch mesh screen.
Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from any structure.
Make sure your house number is clearly visible from the road. Use 4- to 6-inch reflective numbers to mark your address.
Keep driveways clear and accessible to fire engines. Remember, they are at least twice as big as a car.
Locate all fire hydrants in your neighborhood.
Soak fireplace ashes or barbecue coals in water before disposing of them.
Store gasoline only in an approved container away from any occupied buildings.
Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
Post fire emergency telephone numbers next to your home phone or store in your cellphone.
During a wildfire, if you think you should evacuate, it's OK to leave before you're asked by law enforcement or the fire department. When asked to leave, do so immediately. The safety of your family and the lives of firefighters who need to focus on the fire depend on you getting to safety.
For more tips from the U.S. Fire Administration, go to www.usfa.fema.gov.
Make the most of June weather. There's still time to plant a summer vegetable garden even if it's just a few tomato plants in pots. Try some herbs, too; basil loves Sacramento summers!
Transplant seedlings for tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and squash. Look for varieties that mature in 75 days or less.
From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, squash and sunflowers.
Feed the roses. After their initial big burst of spring bloom, they've worked up an appetite while depleting a lot of energy.
Trim off the spent flowers (this is called "deadheading"), then fertilize with a balanced mix such as 12-12-12. Make sure to water the bushes well before adding any fertilizer (that prevents chemical burns of the foliage). The application rate for most granular fertilizers is 1/2 cup per bush, worked into the soil lightly in a circle within 18 inches of the trunk.