How to Properly Prepare for a Wildfire

In the U.S. today, many homes are being built in wooded areas. Rural plains, forests and mountains are all becoming popular construction sites. Although homeowners in such areas enjoy fresh air and beautiful scenery, they also face the risk of wildfires. Some homes survive wildfires, but many are destroyed each year. However, homes that survive are almost always the result of prepared homeowners. By preparing now, homeowners in every risky area can protect themselves, their families and their homes.

Always practice wildfire safety. Avoid leaving fires unattended, and never start an outdoor fire pit on a windy day. Cigarettes should be disposed of in approved containers. To learn more ways to prevent wildfires at home, contact the local health department, fire department and forestry office. Make sure emergency vehicles have easy access to the home. Signs, addresses and home names should be displayed clearly. When someone else is doing something that may start a fire, report the activity to the fire department. Keep all matches out of the reach of kids, and be sure to teach them about fire safety. Families should also make an emergency escape plan, review it often and post it in a visible area with emergency phone numbers. It is crucial to talk to neighbors about fire safety. If all neighbors are vigilant and informed, it is easier to report flames before they become out-of-control blazes.

Make a safety zone around the house. When designing a home or landscape theme, be sure to select materials and vegetation that help contain a fire instead of spreading it. Non-combustible building materials and water-containing vegetation are helpful aids. Keep grass watered, and avoid letting any vegetation dry out. Keep in mind that conifers are more likely to burn than hardwood trees. When creating this safety zone, make sure it is about 30 feet to 100 feet in length, and it should encompass the entire home. Here are a few additional tips:

-Remove all dead leaves, trees or limbs from your property.
-Trim any tree branches hanging over the home or near chimneys.
-Have the power company remove branches near power lines.
-Remove vines from the home’s exterior walls.
-Clear the areas surrounding propane tanks or grills, and put a screen over the grill.
-Never stack firewood next to the home.

Protect and maintain the home. If there are any chimneys, have them inspected at least twice each year. They should be cleaned annually, and dampers should be in good condition. Have chimneys fitted with spark arresters. For more information about specifications for these products, contact the local fire department. The following steps are also helpful:

-Clean the roof and gutters regularly.
-Keep ladders and fire tools in accessible places, and teach family members how to use them.
-Use mesh screens below floor areas, decks, porches, attics and roofs.
-Make sure a functional dual-sensor smoke alarm is installed on each floor.
-Install fire-resistant shutters and drapes.
-Keep valuables and important documents in a fire-proof safe.

Plan ahead for water needs. Anyone who lives in a wooded area should have access to a small pond, a well, a cistern or a swimming pool. Installing a hydrant is also a good option. Make sure there is a hose long enough to reach from the home to an outdoor faucet or pump. If the home is in an area that freezes during the winter, be sure to purchase freeze-proof outlets.

If conditions seems favorable for wildfires, have a bag packed and ready to go. Have a radio or television on at all times. When evacuation orders are given, follow them immediately. Even if those who stay behind may not feel in danger of catching on fire, the smoke can be just as dangerous. Have a vehicle ready to go. If the garage has an automatic door, open it and disable the automatic function. Be sure to have any medications for family members or pets ready to go. Make arrangements for temporary housing at a hotel, a friend’s house or an emergency housing location. Be sure to call neighbors who might be concerned. Call a family member or friend, and tell that individual about any temporary relocation plans.

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