Wildfires Chase Thousands From Their Homes
Fire season is getting an early start this year.
In California, thousands of residents fled their homes to avoid violent wildfires sweeping through the area. A nuclear power plant, a military base, and an amusement park were also evacuated due to the threat of fire.
The fire destroyed 15 buildings and forced more than 20,000 evacuations before firefighters gained the upper hand. But their victory was short-lived. Several new fires erupted in the area within hours.
Wildfires can be real killers. They can destroy property and turn lives upside down. They can turn deadly in the blink of an eye.
If you live an area prone to wildfires, it’s vital that you know how to protect your property. Even more importantly, you must have an evacuation plan in place to protect your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Protect Your Home From Wildfires
There is no foolproof plan for protecting your home from a wildfire. But there are a lot of things you can do that increase the odds that your home will survive a blaze.
The first step is to create a “defensible zone.”
Within your “defensible zone,” you should take extra care to manage any potential fuel for a fire, especially within a 30-foot radius of your home. You can treat materials near your home with flame retardant or remove them entirely.
This is a regular process. Clear dry grass, pine needles and dead leaves from around your yard. Remove dead leaves and other easily ignited materials from your roof and gutters. If you have any trees within 30 feet of your home, keep branches trimmed so that they don’t hang over your roof. Clean under decks regularly. And create a separation between shrubs and other vegetation and your home, including any patios or porches.
If you have a wood-burning stove, give extra attention to your woodpile. Either cover it with a flame-resistant material or locate it well away from your home.
You don’t need to manage fire fuels as closely in the area 30-100 feet from your home, but you do want to give this area some attention, as well.
In this area, you should take care to trim and cut trees so that they don’t have interlocking branches. Use the ten-foot rule. Each tree and shrub should have its own personal ten-foot bubble. That way, if one catches fire, it will not spread easily to the others.
Keep the area clear of tinder items as well. Clear away pine cones and small branches. Remove any dead wood from trees and shrubs.
Basically, your goal is to create a firebreak.
A well-planned and well-maintained fire break could save your home. An approaching fire could burn through the fuel around your home, but you don’t want it to be able to burn up to your home.
For your home itself, consider upgrading to a roof of fireproof material. You can also invest in fireproof siding. These two changes could make a tremendous difference in how well your home weathers a close encounter with a wildfire.
In addition, you should always practice good fire safety:
- If you have a fire pit, have someone monitor the fire at all times. And make sure the fire is completely out and the ashes are cool before leaving the pit unattended.
- If you cook outdoors, stay aware of your surroundings. If any sparks escape, make sure you put them out immediately.
- Sparks from lawn mowers can trigger a fire. Mow early in the morning and avoid mowing on windy or excessively dry days.
Be Ready to Move
Sometimes when a wildfire starts, advanced warnings are given. You might be told that you have to evacuate the area.
But other times, you may have only a few minutes to gather your things and get out.
If you live in an area that’s prone to wildfire, you should have an evacuation bag ready during fire season.
In the bag, keep:
- A change of clothes and two changes of socks and underwear
- A recent photo of each family member
- A basic personal hygiene kit
- Extra cash
- Extra prescription medication
- A basic first aid kit
- Bottled water
- Energy bars
- A book or deck of cards
- Pet leash and medications
If you are ordered to evacuate, and you have time before you have to leave, add to this any important documents, credit cards, computer back up disks, extra clothing, extra food and water, jewelry, and sentimental items you want to take with you. You can find more information about creating your personal evacuation kit here.
Keeping the basics ready to go, and knowing what you’ll add if you have time is a good strategy to ensure your family’s safety during a wildfire evacuation.
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