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Wildfires: Prevention and Planning are Key to Protection

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Wildfires are large, uncontrolled fires that typically occur in heavily wooded areas or grassy fields, and they spread quickly, putting homes in or surrounding these areas at risk. In fact, according to Verisk’s 2019 Wildfire Risk Analysis, 4.5 million U.S. homes are identified at high or extreme risk of wildfire. If you live near an at-risk area, check out our planning tips to prevent wildfires from engulfing your property.

Prevention
Most wildfires are not intentionally set, but when conditions are dry, all it takes is an ignition source, high winds and dry plants or trees to spark a wildfire—even if it's an accident. When conditions are right for a wildfire to occur, don’t leave campfires unattended, burn trash, put a cigarette out or engage in any other similar activities that can cause a fire to start. 

If your home is at risk of being damaged by a wildfire, here are some precautions you can take: 

  • Create a defensible space of 30 feet or more around your home by installing hard surfaces, keeping trees and plants away from your house and not storing combustibles under your deck or near the house.
  • Keep wood piles at least 30 feet or more from your home.
  • Sweep dry leaves and pine needles away from your home. Get rid of dead plants.
  • Prune trees and trim branches that are low to the ground, above the roof or near a chimney.
  • Install a roof with a fire classification of Class A.
  • Make sure your roof and gutters are clean and gutter covers are non-flammable.
  • Remove climbing vines from your house.
  • Keep the grass mowed and sufficiently hydrated so it doesn’t die and dry out.

If wildfires are in your area, keep your yard and landscaping wet. In addition, if you know wildfires are approaching, it may help to wet the roof, especially if you have wood shingles. If you have anything outside that's flammable such as wooden or wicker outdoor furniture, propane tanks for grills, gas cans, etc., move them indoors so an ember cannot ignite it. Don’t make it easy for the fire to spread.

Planning
Hopefully wildfires will never threaten your home, but planning for the worst can help if it does happen.

  • Close windows and remove curtains.
  • Open your fireplace damper and close fireplace doors or screens.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors work. Change the batteries regularly whether you think they need it or not.
  • Keep enough working fire extinguishers in the house and make sure everyone living in the house knows how to use them.
  • Review your homeowners insurance policy and keep an accurate list of your belongings.
  • Have an evacuation route planned and make sure those who live with you (and those who don’t) know what that route is.
  • Keep a disaster kit packed and ready to go, including a fireproof safe with all of your important documents, photos, etc.

Above all, if you are ordered to evacuate, do it. Your house and belongings can be replaced, but you and your family can't. Be safe.

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