Living in a wildfire zone is a reality for an estimated 6.7 million people in the United States. If you live in one of these areas, there’s a lot you can do to be prepared. Here are some of the precautions you and your family can take to improve your odds of staying safe in the event of a wildfire.
Part 1: Don’t Be the Cause of a Wildfire
Use Safety Circles for, and Maintain, Power Tools
Are you building a fence? Cutting down a tree? There are several ways the power tools you use can start fires. Sparks from damaged cords and overheated batteries can start and have started wildfires. Make sure your power tools are in good working condition. Be sure to have a fire safety circle around your power tools any time you’re using them, and keep an eye out for smoke and sparks. If possible, have a hose or bucket of water nearby.
Never Leave Your Barbecue or Fire Pit Unattended
An unattended barbecue can grill more than hamburger patties. If you’re grilling out, stay outside near the barbecue and keep an eye on it. The same goes for fire pits. Sparks from fire pits can rise into the air and be carried by the wind. Use a screen to help control sparks and never leave a fire pit unattended.
Tend to Controlled Burns
Burning brush around your home can quickly get out of control. Ensure you’re burning on a designated burn day and follow your local guidelines on how big the fire can be. Keep a large safety circle around your fire site. Have running water and shovels on standby and make sure the fire is out before leaving the pile (you may have to watch it into the night). Fires can reignite and smolder for hours and even days, so be careful.
Don’t Use Heat Lamps.
Heat lamps can tip over and light surrounding items on fire. Avoid using them if you live in a wildfire zone. If you do use heat lamps, never leave them on and unattended. Avoid using them in the dry months.
Part 2: Be Prepared and Protect Yourself
Have a Family Evacuation Plan and Safe Meetup Location
Make sure your family has an evacuation plan that you practice regularly. If you have children, make sure they know what to do if they smell smoke or hear a fire alarm. In case one of your family members is away from home, agree on a meetup location at a safe place away from your homestead. Never go back into a burning zone.
Plan for Your Pets and Animals
If you have pets or livestock, make sure you have transportation, food, and water on-hand and ready to go if a fire breaks out.
Make a Defensible Space Around Your Home
Clear brush within 30 feet of your home. Clear tree limbs within 10 feet. Keep woodpiles 100 feet away from your home. For more tips, click here. Plant fire-resistant plants instead of fast-burning ones.
Check and Maintain Your Smoke Alarms
Make sure your smoke alarms are new, working, and have fresh batteries. Interconnected smoke alarms are recommended because when one goes off, they all go off. Check them regularly, and make sure they are installed correctly.
Install Extra Indoor Protection
A closed door can limit the spread of a fire in a home, giving you additional time to evacuate or be rescued. Install a system such as Mindr™ that automatically closes your interior doors in the event of a fire. Indoor residential sprinkler systems, such as Home Fire Sprinkler, can help suppress fires that start in the home, giving you more time to get out.
Check Your Fire Insurance Policy
Make sure your fire insurance policy covers everything you want it to, from wildfires to domestic fires. It’s better to review it now than to find out you don’t have the coverage you wanted after a fire.
Part 3: If a Wildfire Breaks Out
Get Your Family and Get Out
The earlier you get out, the better. Gather your family and get out as soon as possible. Depending on how far you live from safety, roads may be closed or consumed by fire and smoke, so give yourself all the time you need to get out.
Get Your Pets & Livestock
This is the time to gather your pets and livestock and get out. Make sure you have leashes and crates nearby and ready to go.
Shut Off Gas and Propane
If there is time, shut off gas and propane to your house.
Close All Doors and Windows
If there is time, close all the doors and windows in your home. A closed door can buy your house time for first responders to save what they can.
Living in a wildfire zone is always a risk, so be prepared and plan to get out and let the firefighting professionals do their job.