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.
Advanced 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 nature of the vegetation close by.
Know How to Protect Yourself, Your Family, and Property
Before Wildfire Threatens
- Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind by selecting materials and plans that can help contain a 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 Safety Zone Around Your Home
By creating a 30 to 100-foot safety zone around your home, 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, more radical protective measures may be required. 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 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, watch tv or listen to the 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 the 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.
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.