Before Wildfire Threatens…
Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it. Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking, or trim with fire-retardant chemicals evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus, or fir trees.
Your best resource for proper planning is www.firewise.org which has outstanding information used daily by residents, property owners, fire departments, community planners, builders, public policy officials, water authorities, architects, and others to assure safety from fire — it really works. Firewise workshops are offered for free all across the Nation in communities large and small, and free Firewise materials can be gotten easily by anyone interested.
Create a 30- to 100-footsafety zone around your home
Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.
- Rake leaves, dead limbs, and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
- Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.Many homes that burn, get started because a small patch of leaves or flammable rubbish caught some sparks, which started a corner of the house, which burned it to the ground.
- Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
- Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
- Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
- Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
- Remove vines from the walls of the home.
- Get soaker hoses that can surround your house.That way should a fire threaten you can soak the ground around your home making it more fire resistant.
- Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill — use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
- If you have a water supply such as a pool, a gas powered pump can be useful for water to dampen the area or put out spot fires.
- Store gasoline, oily rags, and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
- Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet. Use only wood- burning devices evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Review your homeowner’s insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home’s contents.
- Prepare an escape bag. This will include items that you will need to when away from home for 1 to 3 days. Needed medications should be kept in one place so that they can quickly be gotten together in the event of evacuation.
- Irreplaceable valuables and important papers such as passports and birth certificates should be kept in a safe deposit box at your bank. If you doubt their safety, just ask to see the facilities at your bank. It is as safe as Fort Knox.
- Have someone outside the area you can contact and leave a message with so that worried loved ones will know you are safe and where you are.
- Know what you can do with pets to keep them safe. Kennels and boarding facilities may be over burdened at that time and fires don’t usually happen at convenient times during business hours.
When Wildfire Threatens
If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your battery-operated radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials. A fire will announce its presence with plenty of smoke. If the smoke is directly overhead, you are directly in the path of the fire and you must take immediate precautions. You may or may not be warned of danger by emergency personnel. Their job is to protect the area as a whole and while they do their best, the safety of each individual is that individual’s responsibility.
- Be prepared to evacuate rapidly and do not wait until the last moments. Many people have died who thought that they had more time. Power may be out and roads clogged with emergency equipment and other evacuees.
- Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition or on the car in the event you have a vehicle which may electronically lock itself. Have spare keys with you. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers. The power may be out when you need to leave.
- Confine pets to one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate. Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.
- If advised to leave, do so immediately. With advanced preparation you can be gone in a few minutes.
- If you choose not to leave and think you can help save your house yourself you may have that option. But you must remember that you are betting your life you will be successful. And if you get in the way of emergency personnel, they will arrest you for failing to obey the orders of law enforcement personnel during the time of an emergency.
- Wear protective clothing — sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face. This is not time to make a fashion statement.
- Take your escape bag as well as other essentials you will need.
- Lock your home. But do not lock the gates to your property. In the event fire personnel can get to your home, you do not want to keep them away from saving your house. They do not have the time to fight with locks and will simply pass it by for another house to save.
- Tell someone when you left and where you are going.
- Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
If you’re sure you have time, take steps to protect your home
- Close windows, vents, doors, blinds, or noncombustible window coverings and heavy drapes. Remove lightweight curtains.
- Shut off all utilities if possible, especially bottled gas.
- Open fireplace damper. Close fireplace screens.
- Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding glass doors.
- Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
- Seal attic and ground vents with precut noncombustible coverings.
- Turn off propane tanks or shut off natural gas.
- Place combustible patio furniture either inside or away from any structures.
- Connect the garden hose to outside taps.
- Set up a portable gasoline-powered pump for water.
- Place soaker houses around the house to wet area. Sprinklers on the roof are advisable if you still have a wood shake roof. Wetting the roof may help if it is shake shingled.
- Gather fire tools.
Practice and review these steps.
Create a Family Disaster Plan
Wildfire and other types of disasters — flood, earthquake, hazardous materials spill, winter storm — can strike quickly and without warning. You can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together. Meet with your family to create a disaster plan. To get started you should:
Contact your local Emergency Management Agency or your local American Red Cross
- Find out about the hazards in your community.
- Ask how you would be warned.
- Find out how to prepare for each type of disaster.
Meet with your family
- Discuss the types of disasters that could occur.
- Explain how to prepare and respond to each type of disaster.
- Discuss where to go and what to bring if advised to evacuate.
- Practice what you have discussed.
Plan how your family will stay in contact if separated by disaster
Pick two meeting places:
- A place a safe distance from your home in case of a home fire.
- A place outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.
- Choose an out-of-state friend as a “check-in contact” for everyone to call.
Complete these steps
- Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone.
- Show responsible family members how and when to shut off water, gas, and electricity at main switches.
- Contact your local fire department to learn about home fire hazards.
- Know how fires are responded to and what to expect as well as to how to prevent your being a hindrance to emergency personnel or putting yourself in danger.
- Learn first aid and CPR. Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for information and training. You may not have services available during an emergency and the life of someone you care about may depend on you.
- Never leave the gas tank in your car less than half full. In an emergency you will not have the ability or the time to stop for fuel.
We hope this information can be of assistance to you and help keep you safe.