Humans unwillingly cause the majority of wildfires, by activities such as burning debris or discarding lit cigarettes. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, humans start about six times more likely to start wildfires than a lightning strike. In spite of this fact, lightning-sparked fires have often burned more land and property than human-caused fires.
The good news is that it is possible to limit the damage of wildfires and other types of house fires through careful planning. Wildfires may threaten homes and communities without warning, but they can also spread rapidly and change direction without notice.
Keep Your Home Safe
The best way to protect your family from a wildfire is to prepare your home and property. There are several fire safety steps that are designed to give you time to evacuate and escape, should it become necessary.
When adding new landscaping to your property, keep wildfire prevention in mind. Certain plants and materials may help you contain fires and prevent them from spreading, but others will only fuel a fire.
The best materials to use for building your home are those that are noncombustible, fireproof or fire resistant. Wooden structures and additions, such as decks, trim, siding, and roofing, should be treated with fire-retardant chemicals, preferably those that have been tested and approved by a respected laboratory or government agency.
Other wildfire preparedness measures you can take to protect your home are:
- Keep your roof and gutter clear of combustible debris.
- Clean your chimney semi-annually and ensure the damper is working properly.
- Surround the underside of decks, porches and open floors with an aluminum mesh screen that is at least 1/8 inch thick.
- Install smoke alarms on each floor of your home; test them monthly and change the batteries annually.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in a place where you can easily reach it.
- Install fire-resistant shutters or curtains on your windows.
- Always have a ladder that will reach from the ground to the roof.
- Never leave flammable or explosive materials lying around.
- Mow your lawn on a regular basis.
- Clear leaves and other natural debris from your yard and from underneath structures.
- Don’t allow vines to grow on exterior walls.
- Store flammable materials away from your home in approved safety containers.
- Have a source of water located outside your home, such as a pond, wellspring, fire hydrant or swimming pool.
- Maintain two exterior water spigots on opposite sides of your home, and have a garden hose that will reach all sections of your home.
Additionally, notify your electric company if tree limbs are extending into the power lines around your property. It is also a good idea to take an inventory of your belongings and have photographic evidence of them for your insurance company, should something happen to your home.