How to Prevent Damage From a Wildfire

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lightning_forest_fireWith more people building houses in wooded areas or on mountainsides, it is important to plan out your yard. Your landscaping can be designed to create barriers or safety zones that will help stop forest fires from advancing towards your house or at least minimize damage. Swimming pools, ponds, stone walls and patios are good fire barriers so they could be included in your landscape design.

Vegetation serves as fuel for fires; therefore, it is essential to keep trees, shrubs and brush away from your house. Shrubs and trees are more flammable than others so this should be taken into consideration when adding plants to your property.

Protecting Your Yard Against Forest Fires

Within the first 30 feet, there should be little or no vegetation. If you live on a hillside, be sure to leave a larger safety zone especially on the downhill side because fire can quickly advance uphill. Here are other things you can do to make this safety zone more resistant to fire:

  • Move trees or shrubs that lie too close to the ground or too close to the house to a location further away from the house.
  • Cut tree limbs that are less than 15 feet above the ground.
  • Prune shrubbery and tree branches that are within 15 feet of stove pipes and chimneys.
  • Ensure there is at least 15 feet between tree crowns.
  • Remove vines off of house walls.
  • Keep grass mowed to a height of no more than two inches.
  • Avoid using wood chip and bark mulch.
  • Gather up dead leaves and branches on a regular basis.
  • Use underground wiring to outbuildings.
  • Store firewood at least 100 feet away from the house and if living on a hill, stow the firewood on the uphill slope.
  • Ensure propane or gas barbeques are located at least 15 feet from any building and have an area of 15 feet cleared around the barbeque. Cover the grill with ¼ inch mesh screening.
  • Keep flammable materials in a location away from the house.

You should have a second safety zone that extends from 30 feet to at least 100 feet. This zone should be planted with shrubs and trees that are less flammable than others. Check with your local landscaping retailers for suggestions on what would do best in your yard.

Protecting Your House Against Wild Fires

In addition to making your yard more fire resistant, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of wildfires destroying your house. Here are some safety measures you can take to make your house less vulnerable:

  • Use siding made out of stucco, stone, cement, metal or brick. If you have wood siding, you can have it treated with fire retardant compounds but it has to be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Avoid roofing materials like shake and wood shingles. The best materials are slate, metal, fiberglass, clay and fire resistant single-ply membrane.
  • Replace windows with dual or triple pane thermal glass. You can have your windows glazed with shatter resistant coating.
  • Add fire resistant shutters, awnings or drapes to your windows.
  • Cover attic vents, louvers or soffit vents with ¼ inch (or smaller) wire mesh in order to prevent embers from entering your home.
  • Try to avoid building overhangs like balconies or raised porches and decks. The space underneath these structures can trap fire and heat. Do not allow vegetation to grow underneath and do not store combustible materials. Hang ½ inch mesh screening material from the overhangs and ensure it goes down to the ground.
  • Build decks as close to the ground as possible and use fire-resistant material.
  • Use non-combustible patio furniture.

With your house and yard optimized for protection from wildfires, the job is not done. You need to create a wildfire disaster plan and an emergency kit for your family. There are local agencies such as the fire department, forestry office, emergency management or building department that can provide information to help you minimize the damage from wildfires.

Source: Suite 101

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