Ever wonder why fires can devastate some neighborhoods and not seem to touch others nearby? It may be fate, weather conditions or location, but then again, it may also be fire safety planning at its finest.
It seems last month's fires in Southern California stayed away from five master planned communities because homebuilders used a fire-protection program known as "shelter-in-place."
According to local sources in the Rancho Bernardo area where these five master-planned neighborhoods are situated, not a single home was lost due to the shelter-in-place concept.
Officials for the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District acknowledge that the communities of The Bridges, The Crosby, Cielo, Santa Fe Valley and 4S Ranch were saved because of cooperation between his group, the builders and shelter-in-place practices and requirements, such as indoor fire sprinklers, noncombustible building materials, wide roads and open spaces so that fire equipment can easily access the community.
San Diego County does not issue building permits unless the builder submits a fire protection plan from a certified fire consultant.
Other vital components include the installation of fire hydrants within 500 feet of each home, landscaped areas approximately 50 feet from each home where non-flammable native vegetation such as cacti are planted, and fire suppression zones from hilltops to any nearby nature preserves where brush is thinned out so fires can't start in the first place.
These neighborhoods are also subject to routine annual landscape inspections so that residents comply with the shelter-in-place rules.