Wild Fires: Six Checklists for Safety Before, During and After a Blaze
Wildfires often begin quietly and then spread quickly, igniting brush, trees, and even homes. You can reduce your risk by following these tips.
Before a Wildfire Occurs: Home Construction
- Houses with wood-shake roofs are particularly vulnerable to flying embers. Use fire-resistant roofing materials such as tile, composition shingles, metal or copper.
- Screen all vent openings with ¼ inch or smaller noncorrosive metal mesh.
- Finish exterior walls with noncombustible siding materials such as stucco or masonry.
- Box in eaves.
- Enclose area under raised decks to prevent embers from blowing underneath, and keep clear of flammable items.
- Construct decks of nonflammable materials.
- Use dual pane or tempered glass windows with metal/aluminum frames.
- Install fire-resistant window treatments.
- Install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers throughout your home.
- Keep a garden hose that is long enough to reach the house and structures on the property.
- Make sure fire tools (ladder, shovel, house, rake, axe, water bucket) are handy.
- Install a back-up generator in case electrical power is shut off.
- Keep the roof and gutters free of leaves, needles, branches, and other debris.
- Stack firewood at least 30 feet away from home.
- Store valuable documents in a fire-resistive safe or an off-premise location.
- Maintain an adequately watered defensible space around your house on a regular basis (at least 100 feet of space on level ground and 200 feet on sloped terrain).
- Remove all dead plants, trees, branches, and debris.
- Remove all flammable native plants within 30 feet of home.
- Remove branches that extend over the roof or within 6 feet of the home.
- Maintain a minimum of 15 feet between tree crowns.
- Trim tree limbs to 15 feet off the ground or 1/3 total crown height, whichever is less.
- Mow grass regularly.
- Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks or barbecue area.
- Separate shrubs by a distance of at least twice the height of the shrub. Keep shrubs thinned.
Create Easy Access
- Post your house address so that it is readily visible from the street.
- Clear driveways of flammable vegetation for 10 feet on both sides and free overhanging obstructions for a height of 15 feet.
- Long driveways should have turnaround areas suitable for large fire equipment.
When Wildfire Approaches:
- Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
- Close windows, vents, doors, venetian blinds or non-combustible window coverings.
- Remove lightweight and/or non-fire resistant curtains and materials from around windows.
- Attach pre-cut plywood panels to cover exteriors of windows and glass doors.
- Open fireplace damper. Close fireplace screens.
- Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
- Set up a portable gasoline-powered pump.
- Shut off propane at the tank or natural gas at the meter.
- Turn off all pilot lights.
- Connect the garden hose to outside taps.
- Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near above-ground fuel tanks. Wet the roof.
- Wet shrubs within 15 feet of the home.
- Prop a ladder against the house so firefighters have easy access to the roof.
- Place combustible patio furniture in the house or garage.
- Move all flammable furniture to the center of the home away from windows and glass doors.
- Continually check the roof and attic for embers, smoke or fire.
- Do not waste water or jeopardize water pressure until burning embers fall around your home.
After a Wildfire:
- When it is safe to do so, inspect the roof and exterior, initially from a distance, for any sparks or embers. Wildfires may have left burning embers that could re-ignite.
- Do not enter a fire-damaged building unless authorities say it is safe. If you are cleared to enter, wear sturdy shoes and long pants and look out for signs of heat or smoke.
- If your home was damaged, have an electrician check your household wiring before the current is turned back on.
- Recheck for smoke and sparks throughout the home, including the attic for several hours.
- Debris from burned buildings and homes may contain toxic substances because of the many synthetic, hazardous, and other materials present. Take precautions while cleaning your property. Wear protective glasses or goggles to protect your eyes and wear gloves.
- Discard food, beverages, and medicines that have been exposed to heat, smoke, or soot. Refrigerators and freezers left closed only hold their temperature for a short time.
- If you have a safe or strong box, do not try to open it right away. It can hold intense heat for several hours.
- Around your home, avoid damaged or fallen power poles or lines, and downed wires. Immediately report electrical damage to authorities.
- Be careful around burned trees and power poles. They may have lost stability due to fire damage.
- Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety. Ash pits are holes full of hot ashes, created by burned trees and stumps.
- Visually check the stability of the trees. Any tree that has been weakened by fire may be a hazard.