How to Prepare Your Home for a Wildfire
If you live in an area that’s at risk of a wildfire, you’ll likely want to take precautions to help protect your home. Consider these tips to help create some lines of defense so you’re more prepared if a wildfire affects your area.
It’s important to create a barrier between your home and anything that might burn, says Ready.gov. Keep materials such as firewood, dried leaves, newspapers and any vegetation that can burn in a fire 30 feet away from your house, Ready.gov advises. In addition, anything flammable, such as a propane tank and gas grill, should be kept at least 15 feet away from any structure, Ready.gov says.
Next, between 30 and 100 feet from your home, reduce or remove plants or trees that could catch on fire. Ready.gov says. That may involve pruning vegetation and incorporating “fuel breaks” — areas that are not flammable — such as driveways and gravel paths.
If you have neighbors nearby, it’s a good idea to work together to create a safety zone that reaches about 200 feet around your homes. This may include thinning plants, removing underbrush and trimming trees so their canopies don’t touch, Ready.gov says.
Once you’ve created buffers with your landscaping, be sure to maintain them, Ready.gov adds.
Consider Additional Wildfire Defense
When adding to your landscaping, consider fire-resistant vegetation, Ready.gov says. Maple, cherry and poplar trees are less flammable than conifers such as pine and fir trees, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). While no plants are fireproof, low-growing plants with high moisture content and low sap or resin are typically more fire resistant. Those may include aloe plants, honeysuckle bushes and shrub apples, among others, CAL FIRE says.
If you’re remodeling your home or installing a new roof, opt for fire-resistant materials, Ready.gov suggests. That may include selecting fire-resistant shingles, fireproof window shutters and windows with multiple panes or tempered safety glass. Also consider heat-resistant metal gutters, which may provide better defense than vinyl gutters that may melt away from a house and expose wood, Texas A&M Forest Service says.
Vinyl siding may pose another hazard in a wildfire, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says. FEMA suggests opting for non-combustible siding made from materials like stucco, brick or concrete, instead of vinyl. Regardless of the material that cover’s your home’s exterior, it’s important to make sure there are no spaces through which embers from a fire might be able to enter, FEMA says.
For instance, embers from a wildfire may make their way into vents and other openings on a home. To help safeguard your home, use one-eighth-inch metal mesh screening to cover openings such as vents in your eaves and attic, suggests the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Also, check to make sure window screens aren’t loose or broken, and consider installing wire mesh below decks or patios to help prevent debris from collecting and potentially catching fire, the NFPA says.
It’s also important to keep your roof and gutters free from debris that could catch fire, says FEMA. Installing gutter guards may help prevent leaves and other flammable debris from collecting, FEMA adds.
Provide Easy Access for Firefighters
As much preparation as you can do to mitigate your risk of wildfire damage, you may still need to rely on firefighters. You can take some steps to make it easier for them to help you out.
For instance, CAL FIRE says:
- Look at your property from the road to make sure your address is visible.
- If you have gates around your property, check to ensure they swing inward and that the opening is large enough for emergency crews to enter with their equipment.
- Keep a ladder handy that is long enough to reach your roof. It may help firefighters gain quick access.
In addition to hydrants, Ready.gov says water from ponds, wells or a pool on your property may help provide water to firefighters in a pinch. Keep on hand garden hoses that are long enough to reach all parts of your home and other structures, such as sheds, on your property. If a wildfire forces you to evacuate, leave the hoses connected so they are available for firefighters, Ready.gov says. You may also want to fill large containers, such as garbage cans, with water, the website suggests.
A wildfire can cause unexpected damage. By taking some precautions before a wildfire begins, you may help defend your home against one.