As thousands of Southern Californians that had to rebuild their homes will tell you, thanks to the wildfires that devastated the region, no home is safe from forest (or wild) fires. Fortunately, if you take the recommended precautions, your home will have a better chance of surviving intact.
Create Defensible Spaces
Creating a defensible safety zone around your home will slow the forest or wildfire down and potentially lead it away from your home. To make this happen, you'll need to view your landscaping as an ignitable fuel source. It just makes sense that a fire can only burn if fuel is made available. Fuel can be decks, woodpiles, miscellaneous landscaping debris and more. To establish your defensible spaces, follow the steps included here within at lease 30 feet of your house, 50 feet if your residence is located in a heavily treed location or 100 feet if you're situated on a hillside.
- Take care of your irrigation system, keeping it well maintained.
- Keep your lawn mowed regularly and promptly dispose of any cuttings and debris. In addition, clear your property of dying and dead shrubs and trees and keep the landscaping around your residence free of pine needles.
- Clear your gutters, eaves and roof of debris and keep branches trimmed so they don't extend near the chimney or over the roof.
- Plant native vegetation, spacing trees a minimum of 10 feet apart.
- Keep your shrubs and trees pruned with branches at least 6 feet above the ground. Shrubs planted under trees shouldn't be any higher than 18 inches.
- Don't directly connect wooden fencing to your home and move storage tanks and firewood at least 50 feet from your home and clear the areas a minimum of 10 feet around them.
- Store any flammable liquids in their approved metal safety containers.
The best time to deal with your home's ignition risk is when it's in the design stages by using fire resistant roofing material with a Class C rating or higher if you're building a home in or near grasslands or forested areas, avoiding shake shingles, or wood which are highly flammable. You can also retrofit your home by applying non-combustible screening to all eve and vent openings, enclose the undersides of your any decking with fire resistant materials, mount spark arresters inside chimneys, use tempered or double paned glass for all of your exterior windows and cover all exterior walls with fire resistant materials that include brick, stone or stucco.
Come up with your own disaster preparedness plans for your family and familiarize yourself with your community.
Determine escape routes from your home and neighborhood and establish an emergency location where your family can meet up if you get separated.
Have an emergency kit in place that includes first aid supplies, tools, a flashlight, fresh batteries for all applicable equipment, work gloves, extra eyeglasses, a portable NOAA weather radio, prescription medications, blankets, clothing, baby items; extra house and car keys; extra eyeglasses; credit cards and cash.
Create an account with Altoserv and store all your important documents, receipts and photos of your possessions. Link in your advisors and be ready for quick communication with your adjuster to get whole again should you need to file an insurance claim. Your original documents may be gone, but you will have a secure copy of what matters to get on your feet again.
It's important to carry out specific fire protection precautions before a forest or wild fire starts. By following the fire safety steps listed here, your home will have a chance to make it through while firefighters do what they do best; bring the fire under control. Bear in mind, a fire department's efficiency when it comes to fighting fires starts with you and it's up to the land and homeowners, along with the communities to help protect themselves and their property. By fireproofing your home and surrounding landscapes, you're giving yourself, your family, community and firefighters a fighting chance to defend the lives and properties of everybody in your area.