If you are warned of an approaching wildfire, get your family together, then:
- Evacuate your pets and anyone with medical or physical limitations and young children immediately.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Remove any flammable materials like trash, lawn furniture and vehicles from around the house.
- Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source. Check garden hoses and be ready to soak roofs, shrubs and trees with water within 15 feet of buildings.
- Close all windows and doors, and remove all flammable window coverings. Open fireplace damper and close the screen. Close outside attic, eaves, and basement vents. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat. Turn on outside lights and a light in every room for visibility in heavy smoke and distribute flashlights to all family members.
- Fill pools, hot tubs, garbage cans and any other large containers with water.
- Place a ladder against the house in clear view.
- Back your car into the driveway and close all windows.
- Disconnect automatic garage door openers so you can open the door without power, if necessary. Close the doors.
- Monitor news reports so you know the danger you’re facing. Prepare bug-out bags for evacuation and be sure to include your important papers and anything you “can’t live without”. Pack these items into the car.
- If you are told to evacuate, follow routes directed by local officials. Leave doors and windows closed but not locked. It may be necessary for firefighters to gain quick entry to fight fire in your home. The area will be patrolled by sheriff’s deputies or policemen. Fires can change directions quickly, be prepared to change your route if blocked.
- If you’re in a car, roll up the windows and close air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not drive through heavy smoke.
- If you have to stop, turn the engine off, but keep headlights on for visibility. Keep windows and air vents closed. Get on floor of auto and cover yourself with a blanket. Call 911.
- If you’re caught in the open, go to a clearing. If you’re close to a road, lie down in a ditch and cover yourself with anything that can protect you from the heat.
- If you evacuated, don’t go home after a wildfire until you’re told it’s safe to do so.
- Hopefully your home is unharmed. Be sure to check roofs and attics for hot spots and sparks and extinguish them immediately. Check every few hours for a day.
- Use caution when entering a building and avoid standing water. There may be an electrical charge.
- Check all utilities and consult a professional if damage has been done.
Billie Nicholson, Editor
Due to continued drought, the possibility of wildfire continues throughout the western states. When fires burn through areas, some homes are spared and others are not. Is there a way to make your property more fire resistant?
One way to help protect your home is to create a defensible space around it. What does this mean? It’s a buffer you create between buildings on your property and the trees, grass, shrubs or any wildland that surrounds it. This space will slow or stop the spread of wildfire and protect your home from catching fire. Defensible space will also provide protection for firefighters defending your property. To create a 100 foot space, divide it into two zones.
Zone one is 30 feet around your house or any other structure associated with it. In this area work on a major clean up removing all dead plants, grass and weeds from your lawn. Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters. Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees and from your house. Remove any dead branches that hang over your roof. Move any wood piles out of this perimeter. Remove any vegetation that could ignite and spread to decks or patio furniture.
Zone 2 includes the next 70 feet outside Zone 1 to make a total of a 100 feet perimeter. Cut or mow annual grass to a maximum of 4 inches. Create horizontal and vertical spacing between shrubs and trees. Remove all tree branches at least six feet from the ground. Lack of vertical space will allow fire to move from the ground to the brush and then to trees. Remove fallen leaves, needles, bark, cones and small branches that accumulate to a depth greater than 3 inches. When you landscape, consider planting fire-resistant plants and place them strategically to resist the spread of fire to your home. Have multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach around property.
Homes located up to a mile from wildland fires can be destroyed by flying embers. Here are some things you can do to harden your home to make it more fire resistant.
- Roof – the most vulnerable part of your home. Wood or shingle roofs are very flammable. Use composition, metal or tile. Block any spaces between decking and covering to prevent embers from catching fire.
- Vents – create openings for flying embers. Cover them with 1/8” to 1/4” metal mesh. Don’t use fiberglass or plastic because they can melt and burn.
- Eaves and Soffits – should be protected with non-combustible materials.
- Windows – can break from wildfire heat before the house catches fire. This allows embers to get into and ignite fires inside. Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breaking during a fire.
- Walls – Wooden products on the outside of houses as siding materials are combustible and not recommended for fire-prone areas. Use ignition resistant building materials like stucco or other approved materials. Extend them from the foundation to the roof.
- Decks – should be made of ignition resistant materials. Keep combustible materials removed from beneath your deck. Use the same materials for patio coverings also.
- Rain Gutters – should be screened or have gutter guards installed to prevent gutters from accumulating plant debris. Keep them clean of dried leaves and pine needles.
- Garage – Have a fire extinguisher and fire emergency tools available. Install weather stripping around and under door to block embers.
Billie Nicholson, Editor