A study from 2017 concluded that 4.5 million U.S. homes were at a high risk of wildfire, with a little under half of that number being homes in California alone. The pace of a wildfire can increase incredibly quickly, and its effects can ruin the land, damage air quality, and dangerously threaten lives within a matter of hours.
In recent years we have seen prime examples of the wrath of wildfires. From the California wildfire tragedies of last year (with a death toll of 42, it became the deadliest wildfire in the state’s modern history) to the thick blanket of ash and smoke that has covered Seattle’s blue skies and degraded our air quality the last few summers as a result of several fires in Eastern Washington, Portland, and British Columbia.
Hence, it is very important to be prepared for any Wildfire disasters.
Get an Emergency kit
Put together your emergency supply kit long before a wildfire or other disaster occurs and keep it easily accessible so you can take it with you when you have to evacuate. Plan to be away from your home for an extended period of time.
Each person should have a readily accessible emergency supply kit. Backpacks work great for storing these items (except food and water) and are quick to grab. Storing food and water in a tub or chest on wheels will make it easier to transport. Keep it light enough to be able to lift it into your car.
The checklist for your Emergency kit is:
- Face masks or coverings
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person
- Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
- Prescriptions or special medications
- Change of clothing
- Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
- An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash, or traveler’s checks
- First aid kit
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Sanitation supplies
- Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.)
- Don’t forget pet food and water!
Items to take if time allows:
- Easily carried valuables
- Family photos and other irreplaceable items
- Personal computer information on hard drives and disks
- Chargers for cell phones, laptops, etc.
Always keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight near your bed and handy in case of a sudden evacuation at night.
Keep your Roof and Gutters Clean
- Clean out gutters.
Pine needles, leaves, twigs, and other dry debris lying in a gutter can easily serve as fuel for a fire caused by a few floating embers. These embers not only can drift for up to a mile from a fire, but they are also more apt to ignite in the semi-enclosed area of a gutter. That’s why it is pivotal for homeowners to keep their gutters clean during the hot and dry season. You can also install gutter guards.
- Sweep the roof.
Accumulating pine needles or leaves can serve as tinder for wayward embers. Not only should this debris be swept off of the roof, but it should also be picked up and bagged instead of being allowed to pile up on the ground (where it will continue to pose a fire threat).
Install smoke sensors on every floor of your house, and make sure to check them monthly and change their batteries once a year.
Come up with many escape routes from your place and practice them also. In case of separation, there should be a communication plan set up for example meeting a person or contacting them. Have a separate evacuation plan for your farm animals and try to keep their area fireproof.
- Have a ladder that reaches your roof in case you need to go to the roof to protect yourself from fire.
Your place should have fire extinguishers and you should teach your family members how to use them properly. There should be one in the range of every family member.
Vegetation should be managed 30 meters out from the structure in two zones: a Fire Break Zone extending 10 meters out from the edge of the structure, and a Fuel Break Zone extending 20 meters out from the Fire Break Zone. The Fire Break Zone should be cleared of any flammable matter such as lumber, firewood, softwoods, and dry grass. If there is an upslope toward the structure, the fire break zone should be even wider as a fire’s intensity is greater when it burns upslope.
Foundation plantings should be of fire-resistant varieties and free of dead and dying vegetation. A Fuel Break Zone should be maintained around all structures. Wider fuel breaks are needed around buildings located on steep slopes or in areas of dense, highly flammable fuels.
Single shade trees and ornamentals are acceptable, as they seldom allow the fire to spread rapidly from native vegetation to buildings. Shrubs and trees should be at least 4.5 m apart. Remove branches to a height of 3 – 4.5 m to prevent the ground fire from spreading to tops of trees
Keep Your chimneys and stovepipes clean
Chimneys should be inspected twice a year for accumulations of soot or creosote. Clean your chimney at least once a year, or as necessary, and keep the dampers in good working order. Spark arrestors should be installed in your chimneys and stovepipes and they should be checked annually.
HAVE FIRE TOOLS HANDY
Your home should have handy fire tools. These tools should be easily accessible, and all occupants of the house should know where they are.
- Shovel, etc.
SELECT FIRE RESISTANT BUILDING MATERIALS
The roof and exterior structure of your dwelling should be constructed of non-combustible or fire-resistant materials such as asphalt shingles, tile, slate, aluminum, brick, or stone. Wood siding, cedar shakes, exterior wood paneling, and other highly combustible materials should be treated with fire-retardant chemicals.
If the building rests on wooden posts (open foundation), use metal sheeting to close off the area underneath the structure and do not use this area for storing flammable materials such as lumber and firewood. Use shutters to cover the are or heavy fire-resisting drapes that prevent the fire from entering the home.
Wildfire is a disaster that can take away everything with it. Do whatever it takes you to prevent yourself and your family members from it. Fire is the hardest form of disaster because you can touch it and can’t be near it. Hence, its preferable to keep yourself prepared for every possible scenario.