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Sonoma County couple says new ‘fire signs’ will make rural homes easier to save during wildfires

It’s not that hard to get lost searching for an address in rural Sonoma County, no matter how good your GPS system may be.

Now imagine how difficult that may be for a fire crew coming from outside the North Bay that has no prior knowledge of the local back roads during a wildfire, not to mention the particular homes in the area.

Will the fire truck be able to squeeze through the driveway without getting stuck? Is there enough water in the storage tanks to battle a blaze? Does that water source have a fire department connection? Are there animals within the property and have they been evacuated?

One local couple wants to clear up such confusion and make the job of firefighters easier with their custom-designed signs that spell out all the necessary details needed to save a home or even rescue residents.

Brant Claussen and Joanie Benedetti Claussen have created Fire Safe Signs to help rural property owners at the start of another wildfire season. The signs — 18“ X 10.5 ” — feature reflective lettering and can be customized to the specific features of the property.

Each sign costs $89 and comes with two “evacuated” stickers that can be placed on the sign when residents leave to let firefighters know that they do not have to attempt a rescue mission and can focus on saving the structure. The signs are manufactured by a local firm and a portion of the profits will support various first-responder organizations.

Like other local residents, the couple has firsthand experience of the havoc caused by wildfires.

Benedetti Claussen noted that her sister lost her home in the 2017 Tubbs fire and the couple had friends stay with them at their Cotati home during the evacuations from the 2019 Kincade fire.

The Claussens’ house is perched on a hill where they were able to see the smoke and flames from those two fires.

“The idea for Fire Safe Signs came about through living through all these fires like we have in Sonoma County,” she said. “When you go through it as a community, it’s profound.”

Benedetti Claussen previously worked at Clover Sonoma and served as chief executive officer at Taylor Lane Organic Coffee. During the pandemic she took a break to focus on the schooling of her children.

Her husband, Brant, is an owner of a digital media agency, Benedetti Claussen said.

“It would be nice to see Sonoma County lead the news in firefighting efforts in a positive manner versus us being on fire,” she said.

In an era of digital technology, she noted that a street sign can quickly provide information to first responders and isn’t reliant on power grids. “It’s tried and true,” Benedetti Claussen said.

The Claussens’ effort follows the step taken by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office this spring. The agency distributed free evacuation tags to residents of unincorporated areas, which signal to firefighters that a home has been evacuated during an emergency.

“I have no doubt that it will become kind of a standard for rural property owners and first responders to make everyone’s lives easier in times of crisis,” Benedetti Claussen said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5233 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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