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If you live in an area prone to fires, it’s important to be aware of the risk and take steps to mitigate it. From knowing the USDA fire danger levels to making sure you’re covered if a fire does impact your home, here are five precautions to take if you live in a fire danger period.
1. Know The Fire Danger Levels
The USDA classifies fire danger into five levels. You’ve probably seen the signs featuring Smokey Bear when visiting public lands. It’s a good idea to pay attention to the fire danger level and adjust your activities accordingly.
When fire danger is low or moderate, fires do not ignite easily, and they are easy to control. Once the fire danger level reaches high, fires can ignite easily and spread rapidly. As the danger level increases, fires become more difficult to control and last longer.
If you live in an area with a high fire level or above, campfires and brush fires can easily escape and become dangerous wildfires.
2. Prepare Your Home
Maintaining your home with the possibility of wildfire in mind can help protect it. Keep your roof and gutters clean. Debris such as pine needles or leaves can easily ignite. Make sure your shingles are in good shape and replace any that are loose or missing. That way, embers won’t be as likely to get through. Use wire mesh on attic vents and below patios and decks to prevent embers from entering. Finally, remove all items stored beneath decks and anything flammable from the walls.
3. Think About Your Landscaping
Colorado State University recommends making use of defensible space and planting native species within it. They define defensible space as room for firefighters to do their jobs. In fact, firefighters may pass by houses that do not have adequate defensible space in consideration of the danger to them and the likelihood of being able to save the structure.
Plants near your home should be lower and more widely spaced than those that grow farther away. Using decorative gravel or stone can slow the spread of fire and should be used for the first three to five feet from the house. Use mulch to conserve moisture and prioritize which plants will be saved in a drought. Keep your grass mowed and consider using ground cover plants.
If you plant wildflowers, make sure there is a wide space between the beds. Similarly, any shrubs used in landscaping should be low-growing and non-resinous. Space them apart from one another and away from trees, where they could become ladder fuels. Do not plant trees near structures. Sticking to native species is best. Aspen or narrow-leaf cottonwood are good choices, but it’s important to pick up leaves when they fall to reduce available fuel.
4. Consult With Professionals
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends contacting local professionals like the forestry office and fire department for information about local laws, building codes, and protection measures.
It’s important to make sure your house is as fire resistant as possible. Consult with a professional about replacing materials that are not suitable. Roofs should be made with non-combustible material, like slate, metal, or fiberglass. Siding should be similarly fire resistant. Consider making use of metal, brick, concrete, and rock. Windows should have dual or triple-pane thermal glass, and any shutters or drapes should also be fire resistant.
If you have a chimney, make sure a spark arrestor is in place. Eaves, porches, and sundecks should all be enclosed to prevent trapping heat and embers. Even your patio furniture should be non-combustible. When in doubt, consult with a professional so you can be sure your home is as fire resistant as it can be.
5. Know Your Policy
If you live in an area prone to wildfires, make sure you know what your policy covers. Standard insurance policies will pay to repair or rebuild your home, replace your belongings, and reimburse you for living expenses like hotel rooms or meals out. However, coverage amounts vary. Make sure you have enough insurance to protect you, keep an up-to-date inventory of your possessions, and keep copies of important papers off site.
Being prepared ahead of time can set your mind at ease. If the worst does happen and your home is damaged by fire or smoke, call ECOS immediately. We work well with all insurance companies and take pictures to document the damage and repairs.