How Do You Prepare Your House for a Wildfire?
Preparing your home for a wildfire is really about understanding how wildfires spread and ignite. It’s also about reducing local kindling on your property. Take a look at these ideas to help fireproof your estate and reduce the odds of a wildfire in your area.
Landscape to minimize and block wildfires
Homes at the top of a slope are more vulnerable than homes on flat land, but both types of properties can be protected with the help of groundcover and trees. Your home’s immediate perimeter needs the most careful protection. By opting for plants that can reduce ember combustion, you’ll be doing yourself a big favor. Landscape vegetation recommended for your immediate perimeter includes irrigated lawn and low growing herbaceous (non-woody) plants. Shrubs and trees, particularly conifers, are not recommended for use in this zone.
Between 30 and 100 feet from your home, spacing out your trees and bushes can to reduce the energy and speed of a wildfire. Trees located in this zone should be maintained with a minimum horizontal spacing of 10 feet between crowns, with this distance increasing with slope. A professional landscaper can give you an idea of what plants and trees will thrive in your region that can also offer a layer of wildfire protection to your home.
Clear the area of combustibles
Keeping your home’s perimeter free of debris and well maintained can help keep fires from starting. Remove plants and brush growing directly under trees because they often seed a tree fire. Once a tree ignites, winds can carry embers from it up to a mile or more.
Keep gutters and downspouts clean
By reducing the fuel near your roof, you can help prevent it from catching fire. Installing non-combustible gutter guards, gutters and downspouts can help prevent debris from collecting in these vulnerable areas and igniting. Install a drip edge at the roof edge to protect any exposed roof sheathing or fascia.
Inspect your fireplace chimneys twice every year
Have a chimney sweep reduce creosote buildup and be sure that they inspect and verify that the spark arrester is operating properly.
Remove debris from under porches, decks and crawl spaces
The materials used to build the deck, combustible materials you store under your deck, vegetation around it and the location of your deck relative to the slope around your house all contribute to how vulnerable your deck will be. Pull all combustible material from under porches and decks. Use a dense metal mesh screen to prevent items from being carried under them by the wind. Check the condition of wood deck boards and structural support members — replace or repair rotted members as they are especially prone to igniting when dry.
Install smart home fire and smoke sensors
Make your home into a smart home that can deliver news of smoke and fire to your phone in real-time. As sensors go off, they can be programmed to also inform the fire department. Your home can be better protected when first responders receive early warning.
How Can You Reduce Wildfires on Your Property?
Firefighters often talk about the importance of maintaining a “defensible space” when asked about their recommendations for reducing wildfires. Check in with your local fire chief and have them look at your property for a boots-on-the-ground review of what you can do to lessen the odds of fires destroying your home and belongings.
Protect the area around your propane tank
If you have a propane tank, it should ideally be located at least 30 feet from your house. If relocation is not an option, create a 10-foot noncombustible zone around the tank or build a wall around the tank using noncombustible materials. Cut the grass very closely under and around your fuel tank to reduce the risk of fire damage to your home or property.
Avoid building with combustible materials
If you plan to make improvements on your property in the near future, upgrading to fire-resistant products and materials can be a great way to keep fires at bay. Installing a Class A fire rated-roof, which is a roofing material capable of withstanding a severe fire exposure, or selecting metal fencing options that connect directly to your home is another key way to stop fire in its tracks.
Store firewood away from structures
Simple as this sounds, it’s a mistake a lot of homeowners make. Build a small shelter at least 30 feet from your home to store your kindling, logs and other wood fuel. If an ember ignites the firewood, you can help keep losses to a minimum with this approach.
Manage dry vegetation on your acreage
If you’ve got several acres of property, be sure to cut grass frequently, specifically as temps rise and the rains start to taper off. Don’t wait until high winds and red flag warnings to fire-manage your property. If possible, collect the cuttings and dispose of that fuel. Or, compost it in a closed container stored away from any buildings on your property.
Maintain and use irrigation and sprinkler systems
Another simple way to prevent embers from igniting on your property is to keep it well-watered, especially the area within 5 feet of your home. Be sure to work within the watering limits of your community to give your property a healthy watering when possible.
Manage smoking materials carefully
Wildfires can be sparked by many sources, including a lit cigarette. If you allow smoking on your property, keep a bucket of water near your designated smoking area and be sure to have a fire-safe receptacle for discarded cigarettes.
Have an evacuation plan
A wildfire evacuation plan can help take confusion out of the moment by giving you a prearranged set of instructions. Much like having a home fire escape plan, practicing this fire drill helps all family members stay calm and focused. Be sure you’ve got a plan in place well in advance of any wildfire warnings. You’ll also benefit from putting together a customized plan for your home so you’re prepared should a wildfire evacuation be declared.
Make a natural disaster kit
One of the best ways to proactively prepare for the unexpected is to spend time putting together your own natural disaster survival kit.
How Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Wildfires?
Standard homeowners policies typically cover damage to or destruction of your home due to fire, which can include wildfires. If your home was destroyed by a fire, your homeowners insurance dwelling coverage would help you pay for the costs to rebuild your home, after meeting your deductible.
If it was damaged but not destroyed, you could be covered for repairs and the remediation of smoke damage to it after paying the deductible. Many policies offer additional living expense coverage to help pay for accommodations and other additional expenses you may incur when your property’s under construction.
Most renters insurance policies cover your personal property if it’s damaged by a covered event, like wildfires. Like homeowners, you’ll also have coverage for additional living expenses if your place becomes unlivable.
Get the Wildfire Insurance that Your Home Deserves
There’s never been a more important time to know that you’ve got the wildfire coverage your home needs. And by making steady progress towards the goal of reducing the risks of fire on your land, you can help to preserve and protect everything you’ve worked so hard for.