It’s not yet officially summer, however wildfire season is already off to a fast start in the West. Currently there are fires in four states- Alaska, Arizona, California and Washington. Over 1,000 people have been evacuated out of 17 large wildfires presently burning.
Here are some tips that you can use to protect your home from a wildfire. It’s always a good idea to do as much as you can to safeguard your home, just remember to follow evacuation orders closely and don’t jeopardize you or your family’s safety in a dire situation.
How to Protect Your Home from Wildfire:
When you are going to evacuate, you need to do it sooner rather than later.
The old and very young should be evacuated immediately. As a rule, houses with people there to protect them will survive far better than those without anyone. However, fires can spread quickly and are unpredictable. Be aware of the situation and have a quick escape route planned out for you and your family.
When the fire season starts you need to remove hazards from around your house.
Cut the grass and remove it to a location where it will not endanger the house. Remove timber and remove trees from too close to the house. The yard around the house should be kept clear of fire hazards (timber, long grass, etc.) throughout the fire season.
Once you know there is a fire in your area, you will need to action to ensure you remain safe.
As mentioned previously, if you do decide to evacuate, do it ASAP. You don’t want to be on the roads when the fire is near. They are dangerous in the smoke, you may get caught in the fire, and there are a lot of emergency vehicles on the roads.
Dress in protective clothing.
If you have cotton overalls these are perfect. If not, you need natural clothes (cotton or wool), long pants (jeans are good), a full sleeve cotton shirt, a wide brim hat, leather boots (preferably lace up), eye protection (goggles), something to wrap around your mouth. Be sensible. Cover up, but don’t wear a thick jacket or you will die of heat exhaustion. Do not wear nylon. Nylon is made of plastic, and will melt at fairly low temperatures. Nylon burns are some of the worst you can sustain.
Check all your taps (inside and out) are working and you have enough water.
Clean out your gutters.
A tip to cleaning your gutters: clog the down pipes with a tennis ball and fill the gutters with water.
Fill up your bathtub and all sinks with water.
Also have buckets of water ready to put out spot fires.
Close all windows to prevent embers entering the house.
This is how most homes are destroyed in bush fires.
If you see a fire without fire crews in attendance, call your emergency numbers immediately.
These vary across countries, but it is 911 in America. They are usually three digits in length. Find out what it is in advance.
Hose your house down with water (or retardant foam if fire crews are available).
Going with your protective clothing on, you will need to keep a watch on any spot fires that start.
Put any out immediately. Be especially mindful of the home; embers can get under the roof, windows, etc.
If available, fire crews should be in attendance.
However, often they are so thinly stretched they cannot be everywhere. Do not get in their way when they do arrive, follow their instructions.
When the fire has passed, find any spot fires and extinguish them.
‘Black out’ any smoldering material, check the house for any signs of smoke or fire at all.
Just because the fire has passed doesn’t necessarily mean you are out of danger.
Keep an ear on the radio or TV for fire updates, and stay on the lookout for a flare up or a renewed ember attack.
- Store as much water as possible before the fire (bath tubs, sinks, etc.) It will come in useful to put out spot fires, and you don’t know if your water supply will be affected by the fire
- Many people install sprinkler systems around their house to protect against fire. These are good if you have enough water. However, they are often expensive.
- If you receive water from a community source, do NOT turn your sprinklers on unless you absolutely have to. This reduces the water pressure and volume available for the fire-fighters to use when protecting your community. There have been instances where fire-fighters have been forced to let a neighborhood burn because there was not enough water to defend it due to many people turning on the sprinklers as they evacuated or tried to defend their homes. If your water comes from an on-site source (well, spring aquifer, etc.) make sure your sprinklers do not use more water than your pump can provide.
- Nearly every time a home is lost, the owners weren’t there. You will greatly increase your chance of saving your home if you are with it.
- Investigate using reusable aluminum structure wrap, sometimes called cabin wrap, to protect your roof, eaves, walls, or windows from radiant heat and burning embers. One supplier, makes it in 10 X 50′ sizes to cover fast. The US Forest Service has used this material to protect historical structures and lookouts for decades. New large size fire shields wrap your home quickly and can protect against heat up to 1,100 °F (593 °C).
- There is a chance the fire might be caused by accidental spillage of a chemical. The chance is small but some fires may not be affected by water or certain other extinguishing methods. If these rare fires occur near your area, let the fire team deal with them.
- Drink water (and only water) religiously. It is easy to dehydrate. When you dehydrate you are a danger to yourself and others.
- If the fire brigade tells you to evacuate, do it without argument. There is a reason they are asking you to do this so listen to them.
- Don’t do it alone. This is a dangerous situation that you can be injured in; you should have someone with you in the event of an emergency to call for help.
In the unlikely event that you need to file a property loss claim and locate short or long term housing, look to CRS Temporary Housing to assist you and your insurance company in handling all your placement details, no matter how specific. Call us at 800-968-0848 or request temporary housing online at www.crsth.com.