With all the rain we had this past winter, wildfires are probably the last thing on your mind. But hot, dry weather is here, and it is not too late to prepare your property for wildfire potential.
The destruction from wildfire has been increasing in recent years. In 2016, more than 67,000 wildfires burned over 5.5 million acres and consumed 4,312 structures across the nation. Make sure your home and property do not become a statistic by understanding the risks and what to do about them.
Homes at the greatest risk are those in the Wildland Urban Interface, the transitional space between wildland and human development. Homeowners in the city may not have the same concern about wildfires, but many of the wildfire protection strategies also help to mitigate property loss due to household fires and those set by arson.
Make sure your property is wildfire safe
There are a number of resources to help you prepare your home for a wildfire event. The NW Insurance Council, WSRB and Grange Insurance created this short video with helpful tips on how to create a wildfire defensible space around your home.
The single most important thing you can do is build defensible space around your home. This limits fuel for the wildfire.
- Use fire-resistant plants and shrubs in your landscape planning.
- Clear away brush and debris in a 30- to 100-foot circumference around your home.
- Keep your yard and plants well-watered and groomed.
- Clear away old trees and stumps.
- Don’t store firewood or other fuels against structures.
Fireproof your roof
The most vulnerable part of your home is the roof. Flying embers and sparks can easily ignite poorly maintained roofs and attics — even at a distance from the visible wildfire.
- Build or re-roof your house with fire-resistant roofing material. Avoid wood shingles.
- Clear away pine needles, leaves and other debris from the roof and gutters.
- Install screens on chimney openings, stove pipes, roof and attic openings to discourage flying embers from getting into the structure.
Inside your home
- Install smoke detectors throughout your home. Test them monthly and change batteries twice per year. Synchronizing battery replacement with when you change your clocks for daylight saving time and standard time is a simple way to make sure you don’t forget.
- Have fire extinguishers in accessible places throughout your home. Kitchens, garages and sleeping areas are ideal locations. Make sure your family knows how to operate them and test them on the suggested schedule.
- Flame- and heat-retardant drapes help protect your interior in case a wildfire encroaches on your home.
- Know your fire district and make sure there is a legally responsible fire protection agency in your area. If your home is in an unprotected area, start or join a community effort to build your own community fire department.
- Have an escape plan and make sure your family understands and practices it.
If you do experience a loss due to fire, having a home inventory document or video that is stored off-site will help your insurance company handle your claim more quickly and accurately. The Insurance Information Institute offers basic tips for creating a home inventory.
Wildfire is covered under standard homeowners, renters and condominium-owners policies. Make sure you understand your policy and, if you are unclear about your coverage, check with your insurance company or agent for more information.
Sandra Bird is WSRB's Vice President, Marketing & Customer Experience. She has more than 20 years experience in marketing and sales for both B2B and B2C audiences.