June 10, 2014
Firefighters have already been busy this year battling forest fires in Oregon, Arizona and California. On the East Coast, there have been an increase in wildfires reported in Florida. While there is no doubt that a wildfire that covers over 900 acres will cause considerable damage, even a half-acre fire can have a serious impact on a property owner.
We thought this would be a good time to remind everyone on ways they can protect both their property and their community from the threat of wildfire.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs’ (IAFC) promotes their easy to remember, Ready, Set, Go! Program.
Ready: Take personal responsibility and prepare long before the threat of wildfire, so your home is ready in case of fire. Create defensible space by clearing brush away from your home. Use fire-resistant landscaping and harden your home with fire-safe construction measures. Assemble emergency supplies and belongings in a safe spot. Make sure all residents residing within the home are on the same page, and know planned escape routes.
Set: Get your family and home prepared at the onset of fire in your area. Gather family pets and have them prepared to evacuate. Pack your vehicle with your emergency items including medication and personal identification. Stay aware of the latest news from local media and your local fire department for updated information on the fire. Be prepared to evacuate your home if called to do so.
Go: Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Leave early and stay away until local officials have cleared your area for return. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to best suppress or fight the wildfire and ensures you and your family’s safety.
There are a lot of questions about what is a defensible space? First it’s important to understand what exactly is the danger to homes and buildings in the event of a wildfire. The National Fire Protection Association reports, “Most homes that burn during a wildfire are ignited by embers or firebrands landing on the roof, in gutters, on or under decks and porches, or in vents or other openings in the home. Other homes burn from small flames (surface fire) that can touch the house – such as dry grass that can allow a fire to run right up to the siding.”
Mistakenly, some property owners will clear a patch of land surrounding their house down to the dirt, thinking that will keep them safe. What that does is create a clear path for embers to reach your structure. It’s also a spot begging to be overtaken by weeds, which when dry are highly flammable. Keeping your lawn hydrated and maintained as well as planting fire-resistant shrubs can, in fact, protect your house by catching those embers before they reach your home.
According to the NFPA they recommend:
- Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks.
- Remove dead vegetation from under your deck and within 10 feet of the house.
- Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.
- Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
- Remove flammable materials within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds.
- If you have trees on your property, prune so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
- Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity.
- Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger.
- Inspect shingles or roof tiles. Replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration.
- Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home.
- Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screen with metal mesh to prevent ember entry
You can access the NFPA Firewise Communities Program full toolkit on their website, Firewise.org.
Protecting property from fire is near and dear to our hearts at Potter Roemer. With headquarters in the Los Angeles area, we are well acquainted with the damage that wildfires can do. But even more important than protecting your property is protecting your life and the lives of your loved ones. When evacuation is called for, please, don’t hesitate for even a moment. Stick to your plan and get your family to safety as quickly as possible.