Understanding Wildfires

Knowing How to Protect Yourself, Your Family and Property

The threat of wildland fires for people living near wildland areas or using recreational facilities in wilderness areas is real. Dry conditions at various times of the year and in various parts of the United States greatly increase the potential for wildland fires.

Advance planning and knowing how to protect buildings in these areas can lessen the devastation of a wildland fire. There are several safety precautions that you can take to reduce the risk of fire losses. Protecting your home from wildfire is your responsibility. To reduce the risk, you'll need to consider the fire resistance of your home, the topography of your property and the nature of the vegetation close by.

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Today's Wildfire Danger Level

Download a one-page PDF that will help you prepare for an emergency.

 

Protect Yourself and Your Home by Learning More

 Before Wildfire Threatens

  • Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind.
  • Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it.
  • Use fire resistant or non-combustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling. Alternatively, treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking, or trim with UL-approved fire-retardant chemicals.
  • Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees.

Create a 30- to 100-Foot Safety Zone Around Your Home

  • Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.
  • Rake leaves, dead limbs, and twigs and discard them away from your home. Clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures and dispose of them properly.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly keeping it less than 2 inches in height.
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill--use non-flammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace, and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for two days, then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags, and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet. Use only UL-approved wood burning devices.

Plan Your Water Needs

  • Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.
  • Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
  • Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property. Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from the home.
  • Consider obtaining a portable gasoline-powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.

When Wildfire Threatens

  • If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your battery-operated radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials.
  • Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers so doors can be opened even if power goes out.
  • Confine pets to one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate.
  • Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative's home outside the threatened area.

 If Advised to Evacuate, Do So Immediately

  • Wear protective clothing--sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Take your Disaster Supplies Kit.
  • Don't lock your home. Firefighters may need to get in quickly. Leave indoor and outside lights on to make the home more visible if smoke becomes heavy.
  • Tell someone when you leave and where you are going.
  • Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.

For the most current road conditions dial 5-1-1 or visit NJ511 
This free phone and website consolidates traffic and transportation information into a one-stop resource for commuters and motorists in the Garden State. It provides up-to-the-minute traffic conditions including road closures due to inclement weather conditions and natural disasters like wildfires.

Learn More about Wildfires and Safety from these Sources

  • Firewise Communities is a project of the National Fire Protection Association. The site has an abundance of tools and resources that are designed to educate and engage homeowners in wildfire preparedness plans and efforts.
  • FEMA Learn more about the actions you should take before, during and after a wildfire and other natural disasters.
  • American Red Cross Disaster and Safety Library Access preparedness fact sheets, recovery guides and other instructional material designed to help you stay informed and safe.
  • Source Recommended by a Web Visitor This page lists many links that go to various sites providing information about the history of wildfires, how to combat wildfires and a plethora of related materials.
  • Fire Science Online Fire Science Online This site provides a great deal of information and resources about how to become a professional firefighter. Here you will also access facts about the prevalence of wildfires over the years and fire safety tips.

Page last modified/reviewed on September 18, 2015

If you know of additional resources that would be appropriate to include in this section, please let us know by contacting us via e-mail at info@nj211.org

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