California Fires — Malibu to San Diego: 5 Things U & the Celebrities Can Do When Your Home is Threatened

Posted on Oct 22, 2007 in Celebrity Justice, National Issues

fire_01.jpgThe California fires continue to rage this morning, covering an area north of Malibu southward to San Diego.  Right now, there are 11 major wildfires that have already decimated over 30,000 acres of land.  And more wildfires are expected: burning embers will be carried by the Santa Ana winds throughout more of dry Southern Californian land today.

It’s rumored that the fires began after high winds blew down some power lines, which landed in dry brush with their small electrical sparks starting all this.  The San Diego fires have already claimed one life this morning.  A map of the California fires can be found at the National Weather Service California Fire Site.

What celebrities are at risk here?  Who’s been evacuated?  What should they — and you — do if faced when fire (or other natural disaster) threatens your home? What’s the law here?

TMZ.com has been covering the celebrity angle of this growing catastrophe on what seems to be an hourly basis.  According to their reports, Titanic director James Cameron and actress-singer Olivia Newton John (remember Grease with John Travolta?) have already been evacuated from their Malibu homes.

TMZ also reports that Britney Spears’ home may be threatened, but she hasn’t been asked to evacuate yet.  Also, the homes of Sean Penn and wife Robin Wright Penn, and David Duchovny and wife Tea Leoni are also very close to the path of this morning’s fires.

TMZ also lists other celebrities in the Malibu area that are in the risk zone — they include the homes of Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, Bill Murray, Sting, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

What should you do — along with all these celebrities — to prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster destroying or damaging your home?

1.   Build, buy, or rent in wildfire-prone areas with the threat in mind.  (Same goes for flood plains, coast lines, and tornado alleys.)  Southern Californian landscaping is known for its flame-retardant plants.  Homes are built with tile roofs and stucco walls for a reason, too.   Check the acreage – how close are the homes placed together?  Where is the foliage line – where does the dry brush begin?  You want a physical firebreak between your home and the neighboring houses and fields.

2.  Have insurance in place.  Fire and flood insurance may be expensive, but total loss of your property without coverage isn’t worth the risk for most people.

3.  Keep your policy, as well as your other important papers, in a safety deposit box in a nice, solid bank far away from the danger zone.  Put your will, some cash for emergencies, car titles, etc. in this metal box and let family members (as well as your lawyer) know where it is.  Put 2 or more people on the list as alternative signatories in case you need to delegate them to get stuff for you.

4.  Have a Family Plan.  There should be a designated SafeHouse.  Fires move fast.  So do floods and tornados.  Husbands and wives and children should all know where they should go in case of a threat.  Everyone should know to meet at a friend’s house that’s a safe distance from the danger zone.  Everyone should know that friend’s phone number by heart so they can call to report they’re on their way.  Also, have a plan of action for those at home.  Know to jump in the pool if the fire’s right on you, for example.

5.   Expect to deal with lack in the aftermath.  In a fire, water pressure and ultimately water will disappear — everyone will be soaking their roofs, etc. as part of fire prevention.  Water lines may be incapacitated in floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes.  Electricity may be lost as power lines are destroyed.  You may not have phone service.  Expect all this.  Even if your home is safe, you’ll be living in an emergency area afterward.  Have supplies stored in advance:  bottled water, canned foods, canned juices, manual can openers, paper plates and cups and silverware, toilet paper, etc.  Have enough for at least 3 days — and don’t be one of those people buying bread and milk at the grocery store at the last minute.

Legally, is there anything that you should do?  Well, natural disasters are considered “Acts of God,” and there’s no one to sue here.  You need to document everything that does happen to you for insurance purposes, and if the reason for your damage was not caused by nature then you may have a lawsuit, too.  After things settle down, investigate the cause of the disaster: if someone’s negligence was to blame, then it wasn’t an Act of God and you may have a case — and you won’t know that, usually, until long after the fact.  �

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