How to limit wildfire damage to your home
You may think your home is doomed to destruction if a wildfire ignites in your area.
But if you prepare ahead of time, you increase the chances of saving your house if a wildfire erupts, says Randy Eardley, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. “You see that all the time, where there might be a whole subdivision gone, but one house is standing,” he says. “That’s the house that prepared.”
Consider the following tips to make your home less fire-friendly.
Create a buffer
During wildfires, flames cause less destruction to homes than burning embers that shoot through the air and wind, Eardley says. An ember can ignite your trees and landscaping, sparking a blazing path straight to your house, he says.
So one of the most important things you can do for wildfire protection is create a buffer around your home, he says.
- Clear flammable vegetation within 30 feet of your home, such as evergreen, pine, junipers and eucalyptus. Keep small trees, shrubs and flammable materials such as firewood or clutter out of the 30-foot zone. Rake leaves, dead twigs and limbs within 100 feet of your home, and remove trees or bushes showing signs of death — stressed and dying trees and shrubs fuel fires easily. Also, remove leaves and clutter from beneath your house, porch and other structures.
- On larger trees, remove tree limbs within 15 feet of the ground and any dead limbs that hang over the roof. Prune tree branches within 15 feet of a chimney or stovepipe, and ask the power company to remove branches near power lines. Also, thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns. • Remove any vines that grow along the side of your home.
- If you stack firewood, keep the stacks at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home.
- Keep gasoline, oil and oily rags in containers, away from the base of your home.
- Mow your grass and clean your gutters on a regular basis.
- Clear vegetation and clutter within 10 feet of your propane tanks and grills.
Keep fire resistance in mind
If you undertake a building, remodeling or landscaping project, use materials less likely to burn, Eardley says. FEMA and the U.S. Fire Administration recommend the following:
- Landscape your home with plants and shrubs that help contain fire instead of fuel it. The best plants to use will vary by the area you live, so consider consulting with a professional landscaper, Eardley says.
- Install protective shutters or fire-resistant drapes.
- Consider fire-resistant roofs and siding, double-glazed windows and ember resistance attic vents. Consult with a remodeling company or builder for the best options, Eardley says.