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Outta here! Winter visitors preparing to flee the heat

Leaving town for the summer soon? A few simple steps can make your away-from-home time a lot less worrisome for you and your neighbors.

Local health and safety officials offer many tips to reduce the risk of break-ins, fire, flood damage and disease.

Lower fire risk

Even if you’re leaving in the next couple of weeks, you can still schedule a visit by Green Valley Fire Corps volunteers to replace smoke alarms and alarm batteries. They’ll also add you to a reminder list to let you know when the next replacement is due. For details or to make an appointment, go to, or call 520-393-7505.

The Green Valley Fire District recommends arranging with a nearby friend or neighbor to check your home while you’re gone for anything abnormal, and providing emergency contacts in case of flooding from irrigation, storms or plumbing systems, or other incidents.

GVFD outreach coordinator L.T. Pratt also suggests turning off pilot lights for gas water heaters, furnaces, stoves and other appliances. If you need help relighting the pilot, the district can assist you.

Unplug all kitchen appliances, prop the refrigerator open, and leave indoor thermostats set at 78 to 85 degrees.

Leaving vehicles and golf carts behind? Unplug trickle chargers and disconnect them from the batteries.

“Not that we can pinpoint fires to these but we’ve been suspect of them in several situations,” Pratt said, adding that for this type of fire, “you’re probably talking a total loss.”

And don’t forget to remove other potential fire sources — clutter from patio windows through which the sun can ignite flammables, and store flammable materials in proper containers. Makeshift ones can disintegrate in intense garage heat, spill and flow near electrical wiring, which also can ignite a fire.

Store gasoline, patio cushions, wood piles and any other flammables so they’re not against the house in case of grass fires, from which embers can blow anywhere, Pratt suggests.

Unless someone is checking on your home regularly, turn off the water system and have more frequent checks based on the home’s age and remoteness from other homes.

New to the area and don’t have a keyholder? Ask your HOA board who the permanent residents are and see if they’ll help keep watch for evidence of leaky pipes, break-ins or anything out of the ordinary.

Thwart burglars

Always keep doors and windows locked, use deadbolts on exterior doors and wooden dowels or security bars on all windows and sliders, suggests Green Valley Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers. And don’t forget to lock the garage, gates and take vehicle keys with you.

Avoid the “unoccupied” look by closing all blinds and drapes, using electric timers on interior lights, and arrange for yard care so weeds don’t accumulate. Keep a written/pictorial record of your possessions, have your mail held or forwarded, and don’t advertise you’re away on your answering machine, Facebook or automatic e-mail response.

SAV provides free home security checks in Green Valley every seven to 10 days. To arrange one, call 351-6744 or visit the SAV Building at 601 N. La Cañada Drive weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. View SAV’s complete vacation checklist online at

Keep your guard up

Reduce catching nasty diseases carried by mosquitoes, such as the Zika virus, dengue and yellow fever through prevention, according to the Pima County Health Department.

Keep your property free of standing water by upending all buckets, empty planters, pet bowls and any other items or areas that can collect rainwater — birdbaths, even depressions in tarp-covered wood piles and trampolines. Store boats and canoes upside-down, move old tires indoors, check stagnant fountains, unused swimming pools, hot tubs, empty beverage cans, and livestock troughs.

Unclog rain gutters, fill holes or depressions in trees, change pet water daily and wipe out dishes to remove eggs.

Fix drainage problems in private roadways, green pools and other areas, and report any along public routes to Pima County at 520-243-7999, or fill out the form at

If you’re spending the summer here, keep door and window screens closed and in good repair. Outdoors, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, long sleeves and pants.

Use insect repellent, especially while visiting disease-affected areas, and avoid mosquito bites for at least a week after you return, even if you show no signs of illness. Effective bite-repellents include DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

And stay alert, health officials advise. There’s more than one mosquito variety out there, some of which are only part of the day, although almost any can be out day or night, including the Aedes aegypti, which can transmit Zika, according to state health officials.