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Tips for taming wildfire damage

(Oct. 12, 2012) – Oct. 7-13 is National Fire Prevention Week. Homeowners and business owners who live in areas that can be affected by wildfires should follow these tips from American Family Insurance to prepare for the chance of wildfires and possibly limit property destruction.

Choose the right roof

Burning debris can be carried by the wind and fall on roofs. Consider using fire-resistant materials such as slate, tile or metal roofing when building a new home or replacing existing roofs on a home or business. Also, since leaves, pine needles and branches can easily ignite, keep them off roofs and out of gutters.

Pay careful attention to 'defensible space'

Defensible space is the area around a structure where proactive protection steps can be taken. Defensible space is divided into areas by number of feet from the structure:

15 feet
  • Ideally there should be no trees within this space. If a tree cannot be removed, it should be considered part of the structure and the defensible space plan should be extended to 15 feet beyond the tree.
  • Prune trees 10 feet up from the trunk. Also prune and maintain other plants.
  • Do not store flammable materials, such as propane tanks or firewood, in this space.
  • Have an outdoor water supply with a hose and nozzle that can reach the structure. If fire is approaching, conserve water by waiting to turn it on until the fire is closer.
  • Service fire extinguishers annually and make sure they are in good working condition.
  • Post the home or business address clearly and prominently so firefighters and emergency personnel can easily see it.
  • Do not store boats, other recreational vehicles or machinery within this space.
75 to 125 feet
  • Remove stressed, diseased, dead or dying trees and shrubs.
  • Thin trees so their crowns are at least 10 feet apart so fire can´┐┐t climb from treetop to treetop. Prune tree limbs near the ground.
  • Keep grasses mowed to no higher than six to eight inches.
  • Remove any trash.
  • Make sure driveways allow easy access for emergency vehicles.
125 feet to property line
  • Keep rakes, hoes and shovels in an easily accessible storage area for use in case of fire.
  • In addition, stack firewood and locate liquid propane tanks at least 30 feet from structures. Keep vegetation around propane tanks cleared within 10 feet.

Based in Madison, Wis., American Family Insurance offers auto insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, health insurance, business and farm/ranch insurance in 19 states. American Family insurance is the nation's third-largest mutual property/casualty insurance company. Web:; Facebook:; Twitter: