Protect yourself from brush fires, forest fires,
grass fires and other types of wildfire
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.
Free U.S Government Safety Information
about Wildfire Preparedness
How can I protect myself from wildfire?
Prepare for a Wildfire
Listed here are several suggestions that you can implement immediately.
Others need to be considered at the time of construction or remodeling.
You should also contact your local fire department, forestry office, emergency
management office or building department for information about local fire
laws, building codes and protection measures. Obtain local building codes and
weed abatement ordinances for structures built near wooded areas.
Find Out What Your Fire Risk Is
Learn about the history of wildfire in your area. Be aware of recent weather.
A long period without rain increases the risk of wildfire. Consider having a
professional inspect your property and offer recommendations for reducing
the wildfire risk. Determine your community's ability to respond to wildfire.
Are roads leading to your property clearly marked? Are the roads wide enough
to allow firefighting equipment to get through? Is your house number visible
from the roadside?
Learn and teach safe fire practices.
- Build fires away from nearby trees or bushes.
- Always have a way to extinguish the fire quickly and completely.
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas.
- Never leave a fire--even a cigarette--burning unattended.
- Avoid open burning completely, and especially during dry season.
Always be ready for an emergency evacuation.
Evacuation may be the only way to protect your family in a wildfire. Know where
to go and what to bring with you. You should plan several escape routes in case
roads are blocked by a wildfire.
Create Safety Zones Around Your Home
All vegetation is fuel for a wildfire, though some trees and shrubs are more
flammable than others. To reduce the risk, you will need to modify or eliminate
brush, trees and other vegetation near your home. The greater the distance is
between your home and the vegetation, the greater the protection.
Create a 30-foot safety zone around the house.
Keep the volume of vegetation in this zone to a minimum. If you live on a hill,
extend the zone on the downhill side. Fire spreads rapidly uphill. The steeper
the slope, the more open space you will need to protect your home. Swimming
pools and patios can be a safety zone and stone walls can act as heat shields
and deflect flames. In this zone, you should also do the following:
Move shrubs and other landscaping away from the sides of the house.
Prune branches and shrubs within 15 feet of chimneys and stove pipes.
Remove tree limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns.
Replace highly flammable vegetation such as pine, eucalyptus, junipers
and fir trees with lower growing, less flammable species.
Check with your local fire department or garden store for suggestions.
Replace vegetation that has living or dead branches from the ground-level up
(these act as ladder fuels for the approaching fire).
Cut the lawn often keeping the grass at a maximum of 2 inches. Watch
grass and other vegetation near the driveway, a source of ignition from
automobile exhaust systems.
Clear the area of leaves, brush, evergreen cones, dead limbs and fallen trees.
Create a second zone at least 100 feet around the house.
This zone should begin about 30 feet from the house and extend to at least
100 feet. In this zone, reduce or replace as much of the most flammable vegetation
as possible. If you live on a hill, you may need to extend the zone for several
hundred feet to provide the desired level of safety.
Install electrical lines underground, if possible
Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
Avoid using bark and wood chip mulch
Stack firewood 100 feet away and uphill from any structure.
Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety
containers and keep them away from the house.
Keep the gas grill and propane tank at least 15 feet from any
structure. Clear an area 15 feet around the grill. Place a 1/4 inch
mesh screen over the grill. Always use the grill cautiously but
refrain from using it all during high risk times.
Protect Your Home
Remove debris from under sun decks and porches.
Any porch, balcony or overhang with exposed space underneath
is fuel for an approaching fire. Overhangs ignite easily by flying
embers and by the heat and fire that get trapped underneath.
If vegetation is allowed to grow underneath or if the space is used
for storage, the hazard is increased significantly. Clear leaves, trash
and other combustible materials away from underneath sun decks
and porches. Extend 1/2-inch mesh screen from all overhangs down
to the ground. Enclose wooden stilts with non-combustible material
such as concrete, brick, rock, stucco or metal. Use non-combustible
patio furniture and covers. If you're planning a porch or sun deck,
use non-combustible or fire-resistant materials. If possible, build
the structure to the ground so that there is no space underneath.
Enclose eaves and overhangs.
Like porches and balconies, eaves trap the heat rising along the
exterior siding. Enclose all eaves to reduce the hazard.
Cover house vents with wire mesh.
Any attic vent, soffit vent, louver or other opening can allow
embers and flaming debris to enter a home and ignite it.
Cover all openings with 1/4 inch or smaller corrosion-resistant wire mesh.
If you're designing louvers, place them in the vertical wall rather
than the soffit of the overhang.
Install spark arrestors in chimneys and stovepipes.
Chimneys create a hazard when embers escape through the top.
To prevent this, install spark arrestors on all chimneys, stovepipes
and vents for fuel-burning heaters. Use spark arrestors made of 12-gauge
welded or woven wire mesh screen with openings 1/2 inch across.
Ask your fire department for exact specifications. If you're building a
chimney, use non-combustible materials and make sure the top of the
chimney is at least two feet higher than any obstruction within 10 feet
of the chimney. Keep the chimney clean.
Use fire resistant siding.
Use fire resistant materials in the siding of your home, such as stucco,
metal, brick, cement shingles, concrete and rock. You can treat wood
siding with UL-approved fire retardant chemicals, but the treatment
and protection are not permanent.
Choose safety glass for windows and sliding glass doors.
Windows allow radiated heat to pass through and ignite combustible
materials inside. The larger the pane of glass, the more vulnerable it
is to fire. Dual- or triple-pane thermal glass, and fire resistant shutters
or drapes, help reduce the wildfire risk. You can also install
non-combustible awnings to shield windows and use shatter-resistant
glazing such as tempered or wireglass.
Prepare for water storage; develop an external water supply
such as a small pond, well or pool.
Other safety measures to consider at the time of construction
Choose locations wisely; canyon and slope locations increase the risk of
exposure to wildland fires.
Use fire-resistant materials when building, renovating, or retrofitting structures.
Avoid designs that include wooden decks and patios.
Use non-combustible materials for the roof.
The roof is especially vulnerable in a wildfire. Embers and flaming debris can
travel great distances, land on your roof and start a new fire. Avoid
flammable roofing materials such as wood, shake and shingle.
Materials that are more fire resistant include single ply membranes,
fiberglass shingles, slate, metal, clay and concrete tile. Clear gutters of
leaves and debris.
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