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Protecting Your Home From Wildfires and Forest Fires

Home Fire Prevention

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house burning on fire

Clearing vegetation from around the home can help to prevent a home fire.

© Big Stock Photo
Countless wildfires and forest fires happen every year in the United States, with peak season running from April through October. Annually, wildfires claim hundreds of thousands of acres, resulting in the evacuation of millions of people. Thousands of homes go up in flames, causing damage estimated in the billions.

FEMA estimates more than 4,000 American die every year in fires and property losses exceed $8.6 billion annually. You may be wondering why fires start and how you can protect your home from wildfires and forest fires.

Causes of Wildfires and Forest Fires

Some people point the finger of blame at global warming and, according to the GAO, twice as many homes have gone up in flames each year, doubling 2003 numbers. Other causes are:

  • Humans. Sadly, most fires start with humans.
  • Burning debris.
  • Heavy equipment operation.
  • Drought and winds.
  • Sparks caused by vehicles, public transportation.
  • Smoking.
  • Camping Activities.
  • Arson.
  • Lightning.

Exterior Home Fire Prevention

California law, for example, requires a 100-foot clearance around the home, which can be accomplished by removing all flammable vegetation within the first 30 feet and reducing fire hazards the remaining 70 feet. Your community may have similar guidelines and laws. Here are other defensive methods you can use:

  • Remove dead branches and trim all trees and shrubs.
  • Ask your utility company to trim trees away from power lines.
  • Cut back trees near your home and roof.
  • Clean gutters and remove debris from your roof.
  • Cover the chimney with a screen.
  • Remove all flammable materials from your yard.
  • Store firewood at least 30 feet from your home.
  • Rake dead twigs and tree droppings.
  • Consider fire resistant building materials for your roof.
  • Buy a ladder that will reach your roof.
  • Note the location of the closest fire hydrant.
  • In remote country areas, consider installing a pond.
  • Keep operational hoses connected to faucets in the front and back yard.

Interior Home Fire Prevention

When disaster is imminent, utility companies often shut off gas and electricity to homes that are located in the path of fire. It's a good idea to keep a stash of batteries, flashlights, candles, matches and a battery-operated radio for such emergencies. If a fire is approaching, turn off the furnace or A/C, disconnect garage door openers and close windows.

  • Install smoke alarms in all bedrooms and main living areas.
  • Replace batteries in your smoke alarms bi-annually.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher and read the instructions for use.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use.
  • Buy a fireproof safe in which to store important documents.
  • Create an evacuation plan and practice fire drills.
  • Plan for pet evacuation, and consider transporting smaller pets in pillow cases.
  • Keep flammable window coverings away from heat sources.
  • Do not use extension cords under any circumstances.
  • Replace inoperable or defective receptacles.
  • Cover exposed junction boxes.
  • Extinguish hot ashes before disposal.
  • Ask a professional to annually inspect your furnace and clean ducts.
  • Clean dryer ducts.

You might want to ask your local fire department to come out and assess your home for fire risk.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

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