How to Protect Your Home From Wildfires
While many San Diego homeowners choose property in heavily wooded areas or dry areas, they face the risk of wildfires. These disasters can quickly spread through extremely dry areas or woods, fueled by leaves, trees, and homes. While losing your home can be devastating, there is also the risk of serious burn injury or even death in a serious wildfire.
Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for and prevent such a calamity. Consider these precautions families can take:
- Design homes with wildfire safety in mind, and homeowners should choose materials that are fire resistant.
- Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees; hardwood trees are less flammable than pine or evergreen.
- Clear combustible debris, such as wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, or tarp coverings, from around the home. Clean roofs and gutters regularly.
- Install a dual-sensor smoke detector on each level of the home, especially near bedrooms. Change batteries at least once a year.
- Inspect chimneys at least twice a year and clean annually.
- Maintain an outside water source, such as a pond, well, or swimming pool. Keep access to a garden hose that is long enough to reach all areas of the home and property.
- Install freeze proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home. There should also be access to a gasoline powered pump in case electricity is cut off.
Additional Preventative Measures
Homeowners should check that eaves and vents are minimal, because they can help a fire grow. Those in place should be properly screened. Tile and steel roofs are preferred over asphalt, and fiber cement stands up better to fire with a low or nonflammable underlayment. Windows are also vulnerable to fire because heat can travel through and spread to the inside of the house.
This risk can be minimized by using fire resistant drapes or installing smaller units and non-combustible shutters that can be closed in an emergency. When building, homeowners should avoid complex shapes that can create hotspots. Sprinklers may be useful, but a standing water source for firefighters is a better solution.
Wildfire preparedness should be considered from the moment of a home’s inception. Design a 30 to 100 foot safety zone around the house, and plan for extensive, habitual maintenance. Homeowners should take steps, such as:
- Raking leaves, dead limbs, and twigs.
- Removing leaves under structures.
- Mowing the lawn regularly.
Fire resistant building materials include tile, slate, sheet iron, aluminum, brick, or stone. Flammable materials, such as wood siding, cedar shakes, and exterior wood paneling, should be treated with fire retardant chemicals.
Sources, Information, and Continued Education
Firewise.org is a good source for information on fire planning, featuring frequently asked questions, online education, and a section on Wildfire Preparedness. This includes maps, defensible space and landscaping information, and a link for users to subscribe to a free, monthly newsletter: Fire Break. This features news and information on controlling wildfires.
Homeowners always heed information given by authorities in the event of a disaster. Prepare a supply kit in case an evacuation is ordered. If a resident spots a wildfire and has not received evacuation orders, he or she should call 911 immediately