It’s summer and if you live in California, Oregon, or any other area of the country that is at high-risk for wildfire, it is essential that you know what you can do to protect your home and family from fire. High temperatures and dry conditions make living in or near woodland areas extremely dangerous during summer. There is no government agency, locally or at the federal level, that helps families protect their homes before a wildfire starts. However, there are a number of safety measures you can personally take to ensure your family and your personal property’s protection during these wild and unpredictable times.
The simplest and easiest way to prevent fire damage to your property is advanced planning. Know the high-risk areas around your home, the type of vegetation nearby, your property’s topography, and how fire-resistance your land may or may not be. Know the history of wildfire in your area. Know the area’s weather patterns. Is there a history of drought during the summer? Have there been fires near your property in the past? Knowing the answers to these questions can help prepare you for any possible outbreaks.
It is very important to be ready for an emergency evacuation if you live in an area at high risk for wildfires. Evacuation is often the only way to properly protect your family. Make sure you know the layout of your land and plan several escape routes in case a fire blocks main roads.
The best thing you can do to prevent a wildfire from reaching your home is to create a safety zone around your house and property. Trees, grass and shrubbery are all fuel for wildfires, so minimizing the amount of vegetation within thirty feet of your home will lessen the risk of fire damage to your possessions and your property. Move landscaping plants and vines away from sides of your house. Prune trees and shrubbery to fifteen feet of fireplaces, stoves, and chimneys. Remove highly flammable vegetation such as pine and fir trees and make sure to keep lawns green and mowed. Brick walls, stone patios, and swimming pools can also act as barriers against flames.
Keeping a safe distance from flammable vegetation is just the first step in fire disaster prevention. Making sure the area immediately around your home is clear of combustible material is also very important. Try to install electrical lines underground if you can, and request that the power company keep power lines away from tree branches, if possible. Use gravel instead of bark or wood chips. Keep firewood and gas grills away from any structure and any combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers. Remove debris and vegetation from underneath overhanging porches and balconies. Overhangs are already at a high risk for combustion; using the area under them for storage greatly increases that risk. It is also a good idea to enclose your overhang’s stilts with a non-combustible material such as brick, concrete, or metal.
The material you use for you house also plays a big role in decreasing the chance of wildfire damage. Wire mesh is great for preventing embers and flaming debris from entering air vents. Fire-resistant siding, such as stucco, metal, brick, or rock, helps your home resist catching fire if flames get too close. Even the type of windows you install will make a difference. Dual- or triple-pane thermal glass helps reduce the risk of heat passing through your windows and igniting materials inside your home.
The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home during a wildfire. Wood, shake, and shingle roofs are particularly risky. It’s best to stick with fiberglass, slate, metal, clay, or concrete tile. Make sure you clean your gutters regularly, too.
Wildfires are dangerous and unpredictable. Without the proper disaster preparation it is possible for you to lose both your house and your personnel possessions in a few short hours. However, if you take the time to learn the fire history of your area and implement proper fire damage prevention measures you can greatly reduce the risk of damage and the need to restore your documents, home and materials completely. Don’t assume you’ve taken the appropriate steps, either. If you live in a high-risk area you should contact your local fire department and find out what they recommend for your property. A wildfire need not mean tragedy for you and your family. Prepare your personal property. Be ready. With the appropriate foresight you just may avoid catastrophe.