Don't forget to check into these considerations. It may
save your life or your life savings.
California building codes have been
updated with mandatory requirements in the urban/wildland interface,
so check with your building department or architect if you are planning
new home. Fire resistant materials, tempered windows, boxed soffits,
skirted decks, and even sprinkler systems are sometimes required.
Most rural homesites have no fire hydrants for hundreds or thousands
of feet. This may be reflected in the cost of insuring your home.
Protect your home from wildfire as discussed below. Keep fire extinguishers
on hand. Consider water storage tanks. 2500 gallons is a good minimum
with a fire riser for your fire department.
You can help avoid losing your home
to a forest fire and comply with State Law by clearing within at
least 30-100' of all buildings and maintain a fuel break beyond
that. Fire travels fastest uphill on steeper slopes, so pay particular
attention to the downhill side of your house. The local fire department
or forestry department can assist you with a plan.
If possible, irrigate the areas around
your house. Clear brush back from driveways and access roads to
provide additional fire break opportunities. If possible, construct
your access road and driveway wide enough to allow trucks to enter
and vehicles to get out.
Provide truck turn-around areas and
turnouts for vehicles to pass. Provide all-weather surfaces for
year-around fire protection. If your property is on a long dead
end road, plan aggressive steps to allow you to shelter in place
if you are trapped. A fire behavior specialist should be consulted
to help you design such an option. If possible, work with your neighbors
to provide emergency connections between driveways and access roads
for extra safety.
Most rural areas are served by the county sheriff's department.
Small towns sometimes have their own police department. You can
contact the local law enforcement agency for details if this is
important to you. Fortunately, many rural areas are not high crime
areas. The most common crime facing a rural home is the possibility
of burglary while you're away. Hide your valuables as best you can,
use your safe deposit box, buy insurance, participate in neighborhood
watch groups, and hope for the best. Oh, a properly managed watchdog
Most rural areas utilize 911 by land
line or cellular phone to call emergency medical personnel. The
response time in rural areas is sometimes slightly slower than urban
due to distance, but most communities have good service. Often both
ambulance and fire department emergency medical technicians respond.
Most rural communities have regional hospitals with good services
and the ability to transport patients by air or ambulance to specialized
facilities. Your Realtor® can obtain information for you regarding
Slides, Slips, and Subsidence
Some areas are prone to earth or mudslides during wet, winter weather.
This possibility is related to the type of soil and steepness. Construction
of driveways, pads, and foundations can increase slide potential.
Look at other similar properties for signs of problems. On steep
hills prone to slipping, trees often lean down the hill showing
signs of gradual movement. If your construction will be on steep
slopes, especially those over 30%, you should consult a geotechnical
engineer. The local
building department can also assist you in evaluating this consideration.
Many rural areas were mined both above
ground and below. Look for signs of mining like shafts, large rock
piles, and exposed hydraulically washed banks. Carefully read your
disclosure documents for any information on past mining. A professional
geotechnical engineer can assist you with these issues, by providing
mining records research and a walk through evaluation.
Areas adjacent to rivers, streams, and ravines are subject to flooding
during periods of heavy storms. Many counties and cities maintain
flood mapping and participate in a national flood insurance program.
You can review or buy the mapping from the Planning or Public Works
Departments. The mapping usually shows the "100 year flood limits."
DON'T RELY COMPLETELY on these maps. For one thing, the 100 year
flood is not the largest flood event that can occur. Also, these
maps are usually prepared in a broad brushed fashion from aerial
mapping. Sometimes the mapping is inaccurate. The best advice is
to use common sense and set buildings back even further from flood
areas if possible. A civil engineer can help you evaluate your building
site for flood potential.
Other than excessive steepness, the driveway safety issue is sight
distance. Can you see each way when you exit your driveway to be
safe? Sometimes driveway construction results in cut slopes that
block your view. Sometimes vegetation on adjoining property is a
problem. Also consider the left turn into the driveway, will you
be sitting on a blind curve waiting to get rear ended? Constructing
new driveways onto City or County streets usually requires that
you first obtain an encroachment permit from the local public works
department. Often this department will check sight distance. A civil
engineer can also help you evaluate these issues. Don't forget that
your driveway is an important fire safety improvement. It should
allow access and evacuation during a fire. It should extend to your
improvements so that fire fighters can get there. It should have
the brush and vegetation cleared back for 10' on each side, to form
a fire break.
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