Every year, wildfires threaten homes throughout the United States, especially those located in or near wilderness areas. The tips below can help you assess your risk and identify ways to protect your home and family from a wildfire.
How should you prepare for a wildfire?
Good wildfire planning begins long before a fire occurs. Help ensure your family's safety by installing and maintaining smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in your home. Also, identify adequate sources of water within 1,000 feet of your home, such as a well, hydrant, or swimming pool.
How can I stay informed about wildfires?
Wildfires feed on vegetation; hot, dry conditions increase the risk and speed of a wildfire. To learn more about the wildfire risks in your area, visit the sites below:
- The National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) publishes wildfire outlooks on a daily to seasonal basis, depending on the region.
- The National Weather Service produces regional maps with a color-coded wildfire outlook system.
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service posts a map of current large wildfire incidents.
- The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) identifies low-risk, moderate-risk, and high-risk factors for your home's surroundings.
- The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) provides wildfire research information as well as regional home retrofit guides.
When a wildfire threat exists, use a battery-powered radio to stay aware of current information. Wildfires can move very quickly; if authorities issue a wildfire evacuation order, leave the area immediately.
What should be on my wildfire preparedness checklist?
The best way to protect your home from a wildfire is to remove or reduce the potential fuel within a 30-feet safety zone around your home. (If you live in a high-risk area, increase the safety zone to 100 feet):
- Remove vines from house walls.
- Move shrubs and other landscaping away from your house walls.
- Remove highly flammable and low-branched trees, such as evergreens, eucalyptus, and juniper.
- For remaining trees, remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
- Clear tree debris, such as fallen limbs, leaves, and pine needles and cones.
- Move stacked wood outside the safety zone.
- Pay special attention to clearing debris beneath decks and other overhangs.
- Consider removing wooden exterior structures, such as decks and patios, or replacing them with more fire resistant materials.
- Install non-combustible roofing and siding materials, such as metal, slate, or concrete.
- Clear debris from gutters.
- Install electrical lines underground, if possible.
- Maintain a home inventory and review it with your insurance agent yearly to ensure you are properly insured.
You may also want to collect some basic firefighting tools, including hoses, buckets, shovels, axes, rakes, and saws. However, do not attempt to fight large, fast-moving wildfires on your own.