Most homes that ignite during wildfires happen from a single ember or piece of burning wood landing on the roof, gutter, in a vent, under a deck, or on a porch which then ignites leaves and debris.
Dry vegetation around the home can also allow a wildfire to take the fast lane towards your property.
Before moving on I want to just make something clear. The following steps will help you to keep your home as safe as possible during a wildfire but please keep in mind that no product or technique is a failsafe against a raging fire.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
You should already have working smoke detectors in your home but if not, why not?
Just as important as having them fitted is making sure to test them regularly to ensure that they are in full working order.
When testing your smoke detectors just just press the button but also test them with a little bit of smoke as this is what they are supposed to be picking up and alerting you to.
Check Your Fire Extinguishers
Again, if you live in an area in which a wildfire is a possibility, you should have fire extinguishers at the ready around the home and checked regularly.
Prepare a Bucket, Shovel and Hose
When possible, you need to defend your castle. By having an easily accessible bucket and shovel, you can dig a trench to protect your home against encroaching ground fire, and a connected garden hose to help you defend the area around your home.
Clear the Debris
You need to clear any debris from on or around the property that may otherwise help the spread of fire.
This includes removing leaves and fallen branches from the gutters, porches, and the lawn. If your home is in the path of an incoming wildfire, remove furniture and decorations from decks and porches, including the welcome mats.
Tree Branches Lower Than 6 Feet
Fires will generally start down low on the ground and then rise up. For that reason, don’t plant shrubs directly under trees; they can combust and cause the fire to rise up the tree.
As an added note, spacing out your plants and shrubs is a good practice, too.
Tree Limbs Near Chimneys
Tree limbs should be kept at a distance of least 10 feet away. The embers from burning limbs could quite easily fall into the chimney helping to spread the fire.
Use Non-Flammable Fencing
Wood fencing can look really nice but if you have it around your home, replace any three-foot sections that attach to the home with metal or other non-flammable fencing material.
A metal gate or decorative fencing piece is stylish as well as fire-unfriendly.
Flame Retardent Mesh
Cover all chimneys and vents with flame retardent mesh. It is cheap to do and it can be picked up at most hardware or home improvement stores.
Check Your Sidings
Fire-resistant or non-combustible siding like stucco or brick provides the best protection against fire. Make sure your siding, whatever type, is in good repair, because if the plywood or insulation are exposed, the home is more vulnerable to flames.
Keep Flammable Objects Away
All flammable objects such as lawn mowers, oil or gas cans, propane tanks and wood piles should be kept at least 30 feet away from the home at all times.
Have a Defensible Space
The defensible space is the area between your home and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation has been managed to reduce the risk of wildfire and where firefighters can safely defend your home.
For example, the first five feet from a home is an important area to keep noncombustible in order to reduce the risk of ignition from embers.
Homeowners can use herbaceous plants like lawn, ground cover and flowers; rocks, concrete, brick and pavers; and should keep it free of woodpiles, dead plant material and flammable shrubs and debris.
Upgrade Your Windows
The intense heat from a wildfire can go straight through windows and catch drapes and furniture on fire. The easy solution is replacing the window fabric with a more heat-resistant product.
Windows can break as well, so smaller tempered units are more stable than large windows. The best choice is installing outside non-combustable shutters which can be quickly closed in an emergency.
The most important step that you can take is to have an evacuation plan worked out and if a wildfire is on its way, use it.
Make sure to do the following as suggested by Ready for Wildfire if you need to evacuate:
- Close all windows and doors, but leave them unlocked.
- Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters.
- Remove any lightweight curtains and drapes.
- Move all flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from the windows and doors.
- Shut off gas at the meter; turn off pilot lights.
- Leave your lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions.
- Shut off the air conditioning.
- Gather up flammable items from the exterior of the house and bring them inside (patio furniture, children’s toys, door mats, trash cans, etc.) or place them in your pool.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Move propane BBQ appliances away from structures.
- Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters. Fill water buckets and place them around the house.
- Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running, they can affect critical water pressure.
- Leave exterior lights on so your home is visible to firefighters in the smoke or darkness of night.
- Put your Emergency Supply Kit in your vehicle.
- Back your car into the driveway with vehicle loaded and all doors and windows closed. Carry your car keys with you.
- Have a ladder available and place it at the corner of the house for firefighters to quickly access your roof.
- Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
- Patrol your property and monitor the fire situation. Don’t wait for an evacuation order if you feel threatened.
- Check on neighbors and make sure they are preparing to leave.
- Locate your pets and keep them nearby.
- Prepare farm animals for transport and think about moving them to a safe location early.