How to Prepare Your Home for a Wildfire
Wildfire season is approaching closer every day, and though you and your family have likely already made a fire safety plan for a safe evacuation, the protection of your family isn’t the only thing you can prepare for. Wildfires can and have done immense destruction to homes across the U.S., but the loss of a home is not always the only outcome of an oncoming blaze. Homes have been known to survive wildfires. And in each case, it’s almost always been because their owners have taken precautionary steps to better defend their homes and property before the threat of a wildfire even came. Here are some ways you can prepare your home to survive a wildfire, brought to you by our fire damage experts.
Inside the Home
Though much of the most valuable wildfire preparation steps have to do with the outside of your property, there are important precautionary measures you can take within your home as well. Long before a fire threatens your home, you should periodically check your homeowner’s insurance. Your home is likely your largest asset. In the event of a wildfire, you want to make sure you are financially prepared and supported to replace property lost in a fire–or, in the worst case scenario, rebuild your home entirely. Contact your insurance agent or company annually to discuss the details of your insurance coverage and the limits of what your homeowner’s policy will cover concerning a wildfire. Ensure that your policy is also up to date. Reestablish a home inventory list and any home improvements you’ve made to be included and covered in the policy. The recovery process is much smoother (for both you and your insurance company) if your home’s contents are set and agreed upon beforehand. Even if your home has been paid off, keeping up with your homeowner insurance is still critical in wildfire recovery and should not be neglected.
Outside the Home
Maintaining the land around your home with the prevention of wildfire in mind is a major determinant in mitigating damage and loss of your property. By taking the time to prepare outside the home, you could prevent the wildfire from even reaching the structure.
Clean flammable material–such as leaves, pine needles, branches, garbage, dirt, and other debris–from your gutters, eaves, deck, porch, patio, and crawl spaces.
Keep your lawn trimmed and hydrated.
Remove dead vegetation from around your home (especially from under your deck or porch) that could be used as fuel for a wildfire. Dry shrubs, grass, and mulch within 10 feet of the house should also be cleared away.
Also remove additional flammable objects–common outdoor items such as firewood, propane tanks, oil and gas cans, lawn mowers, wood chips, and charcoal–within 30 feet of the home and any other structures on your property.
Inspect your roof periodically for loose and/or missing shingles and tiles that could allow for ember penetration.
Clear away trees or shrubbery branches that overhang within 10 feet of the home.
Install metal wire mesh screens (approximately ⅛ inch) over exterior attic vents to prevent ember intrusion.
Trim all tree limbs across your property at least 10 feet above the ground. If shrubbery grows beneath the tree, trim the limbs at least three times the height of the shrub. This will remove the risk of “ladder fuels”, or the process in which fire can travel by jumping from low shrubbery or grass up to the highly flammable treetops.
Space trees and shrubbery far apart enough that wildfire will not be able to jump between them (about 10 to 30 feet separating trees and about two to six times the amount of their width separating shrubs).
Have a Home Evacuation Checklist
Know how to leave your home better defended in an evacuation. In addition to your primary family evacuation plan, make a home evacuation checklist that could be hastily completed as you vacate. Obviously, the safe evacuation of you and your family is the highest priority, but if you are able to guarantee the current security of your home from fire and can remain inside for long enough without danger, a few quick actions could help see it through the flames with reduced damage.
Leave all the lights on so the structure can be seen by firefighters through the smoke.
Shut all exterior doors and windows to prevent sparks from getting inside but leave them unlocked in case firefighters need to enter later on. Also, close all interior doors to slow the spread of fire if it reaches the home.
Remove flammable window shades, curtains, or drapes and place them further inside the home or room. If you have metal blinds or any kind of fire-resistant window coverings, close them to hinder radiant heat.
Move flammable furniture away from doors, windows, and glass to the center of the home or room.
Shut off the gas at the meter and extinguish pilot lights. Also shut off the air conditioning.
Fill your sinks, bathtubs, and buckets placed around and outside of the home with water.
Move flammable outdoor items such as wooden furniture and toys far away from or within the garage.
Place a lawn sprinkler on your roof, but only turn it on if the fire is a more urgent threat. You don’t want to pointlessly reduce the supply of water for firefighters.
Again, remember that this checklist is secondary to your family’s evacuation. If a mandatory and immediate evacuation has been called for due to a fast-moving fire, heed the call and get out while you still safely can.
Though the possibility and unpredictability of wildfires can never truly be removed, the risk of them can be greatly reduced with preparation. Even if it’s only a few small actions, take the time to better safeguard your home before a wildfire strikes. The simplest of preparedness steps can make a big difference in the face of an oncoming fire.
Do you have any questions or concerns? Disaster Professionals offers 24/7 emergency fire cleanup response experts who can answer any questions you may have. We're happy to help!