ENCINITAS — With Southern California deep in the throes of fire season, a timely exhibit opened to help educate residents on ways to protect themselves and their homes.
The Defensible Space exhibit, an addition to the existing Landscape for Fire Safety Garden at Quail Botanical Gardens, officially opened to the public Sept. 3 with an impressive showing of city officials, firefighters and interested spectators.
The crowd was wowed by a helicopter water drop provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “I thought the helicopter drop was particularly exciting,” said the gardens Executive Director Julian Duval. A ladder fire truck and the city’s public education trailer were also on site for demonstrations.
The jovial atmosphere was underscored by the local significance of the exhibit. Sarah Cowley brought her 4-year-old daughter Marina to the event. “With the fires raging in L.A. County, it seems appropriate that we be as prepared as possible since we live in a fire-prone area as well,” she said. The Carlsbad resident said both she and her daughter learned valuable information. “The firefighters were able to show her what to do in a fire emergency in a way that was more exciting than me just telling her,” she said.
The exhibit is a product of a partnership between the city’s fire department and the gardens according to Encinitas Fire Chief Mark Muir. “This really gives us an opportunity to have an ongoing visual component to fire safety rather than just verbal education,” he said. Senior Deputy Fire Marshall Anita Pupping made sure all of the attendees were given fire safety literature, including a DVD to reiterate the importance of preparing for a fire emergency. “We’ve had volunteers put educational packets on lots of doors throughout the city,” she said.
While an out of control fire may leave some feeling helpless, the theme of the exhibit is personal responsibility and control over the protection of life and property in the face of a natural disaster. “There are things we can do as individuals that will make a difference,” Duval said. “The time to prepare isn’t when they (the fire department) come to tell you to evacuate.”
Instead, Duval pointed to several changes that can be made to the vegetation surrounding homes. He touted succulents, like those in the Undersea Garden, as excellent in providing a defensible fire zone around a structure. A scaled model home also serves as a visual reminder of proper landscaping and building techniques including installation of dual- or triple-paned windows and boxing in the underside of eves and balconies.
“This is an excellent example of educational outreach for our community,” said Councilwoman Teresa Barth, who has been a longtime advocate for native habitat landscaping as a means of preserving water and increasing fire safety zones. “We all have to take responsibility for our own safety,” she said.
“This exhibit shows how to keep ourselves safe in an aesthetically pleasing way while retaining natural habitat,” Mayor Maggie Houlihan said.