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Protect Your Property From Wildfires
Wildfires may seem rare, but they do happen. Before a wildfire strikes, there are measures you can take to reduce danger to homes and businesses. Keep these fire awareness tips top of mind to take proactive steps to protect your home or business from the unexpected.
Defend Your Structures against Wildfires
Wildfires often spread to homes and buildings when burning debris is carried by wind and falls on roofs.
- When building a new structure or replacing non fire-resistant asphalt shingles or wood shakes, consider fire-resistant materials such as slate, tile or standing-seam metal roofing. Roof coverings are rated as Class A, B or C. A Class A fire-rated roof covering offers the best protection, so consider prioritizing your roof covering with Class A fire-rated products. Also consider using noncombustible siding or coating.
- Keep roof and gutters clear of leaves, pine needles and branches. Additionally, install a drip edge at the roof edge to protect any exposed roof sheathing or fascia.
- Ensure eves and roof vents have a fine mesh screen to cover openings.
- Clear trees from the roof of all structures.
What Is Defensible Space?
A building’s ability to survive a wildfire is based on its roofing material and the quality of the “defensible space” surrounding it. Your defensible space is comprised of these three zones. The selection and maintenance of vegetation and other combustible items in these zones will determine how effective your defensible space will be if a wildfire reaches your property. Defensive space also provides room for firefighters if a fire approaches a structure.
Develop defensible space around each building by establishing the three zones.
Zone 1 consists of the perimeter 0–5 feet around the building. This area should have little to no fire fuel or obstacles. Ideally, all trees and shrubs from Zone 1 should be removed as well. Trees that remain in Zone 1 should be considered part of the structure and the defensible space should be extended accordingly.
- Install hard surfaces like a concrete walkway or use noncombustible mulch products like rock. Plant nothing within three to five feet of the home or business. Frequently prune and maintain any other plants located in this zone to ensure low growth.
- Do not store flammable materials, such as propane tanks or firewood, in Zone 1.
- Post the address so firefighters and emergency personnel can easily and clearly see it.
- Have an outdoor water supply with a hose and nozzle that can reach all part of the structure. If fire does approach a structure, to conserve water, do not turn the water on until the fire is near.
- Check fire extinguishers to ensure they are in good working condition and serviced annually. Consider installing garden hoses near all exterior water hydrants.
- Consider replacing any deck, patio, porch or fence panels that are made of combustible material that directly connect to the house.
- Do not store boats, recreational vehicles and other machinery in Zone 1.
Zone 2 extends 5–30 feet around the perimeter or to the property line. This area of fuel reduction reduces the intensity of approaching fire.
- Remove stressed, diseased, dead or dying trees and shrubs.
- Create islands or groupings of vegetation to form a discontinuous path of vegetation to make it difficult for the fire to burn directly to the structure.
- Thin trees to their crowns are at least 10 feet apart with the distance increasing with slope. This prevents fire from climbing into treetops and creating a fast-moving “crown fire.” Fire intensity decreases when flames stay on the ground.
- Prune tree limbs near the ground.
- Mow grasses to keep them low (no higher than six to eight inches).
- Stack firewood and relocate liquid propane tanks larger than 125 gallons (water capacity) at least 30 feet from the home or business. Create 10 feet of Zone 1 defensible space around the tank and keep vegetation cleared. Consider surrounding three sides with a noncombustible wall to help protect it.
- Remove yard trash.
- Make sure driveways allow easy access for emergency vehicles.
Zone 3 extends from 125 feet to the property line.
- Ladder fuels under taller trees should be eliminated. Cut smaller trees to thin forest, leaving the biggest and best trees. Thinning reduces fuels and the intensity of an approaching fire.
- Trees should be well maintained and at least 10 feet apart with the distance increasing with slope. Separate groupings of shrubs and bushes as well.
- Have an easily accessible tool storage area with rakes, hoes, axes and shovels for use in case of fire.
- Consider managing vegetation beyond 100 feet if the home or business is located on a steep slope.
Once you’ve taken these key steps to protect your property against wildfire, you can ask your local fire department to come to your property and assess the area for fire mitigation. You can also find more information about fire safety from the National Fire Protection Association.
Create an Evacuation Plan
As important as it is to reduce your risk of wildfires, it is also important to plan for the unexpected. In the event of a fire, make sure there is a wildfire evacuation plan in place:
- Create a list of important items to collect
- List your contact information listed on your front door
- Map-out different evacuation paths
Taking the necessary precautions against potential wildfires can save you time and money, and the inconvenience of having to rebuild your home or business .
Related Topics: Protecting Your Business