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How to Protect Your Home From Wildfires

Wildfire home protection

Keeping Your Home Safe During The Summer Season

The summer season signals a dreadful heatwave and unexpected disasters. Among the many natural disasters that roar across the country, the high-life west coast is prone to one of the most dangerous and harmful disasters that destroy our beautiful, green landscape: wildfires.

While October is considered the peak month in “fire season,” California wildfires can start as early as June, so it’s wise to take preventative measures for wildfires. The best way to do this is by creating a defensible space and adjusting the greenery surrounding your home.

Is Wildfire Protection For Your Home Necessary?

It’s not uncommon to believe that your home is not in an area at risk for wildfires, therefore, not needing any proactive action to prevent them. As heat waves increase year over year, so do the threat of wildfires. Even if your home was always at a safe distance from any wildfire that has previously occurred, it’s better to be safe than regret taking no action when it’s too late.

In 2020, III claims that “wildfires in California have burned a record 4.3 million acres, damaging or destroying 10,500 structures…” With 4.5 million U.S. homes identified as high or extreme risk from wildfires, the number of destroyed structures may increase at a rapid rate. Most land fires are human-caused instead of nature-induced, giving more reason to protect your home from any surprise spark.

Defensible Space

Does homeowners insurance cover wildfires?

Defensible space is a buffer zone between your home and especially flammable materials such as trees, grass, shrubs, and other forms of vegetation. The term “defensible space” refers to firefighting, with homes that have a better defensible space being safer and easier for firefighters to protect. So making sure that your home has a defensible space not only decreases the odds of your home catching fire, it also increases the odds that the authorities will fight for your home if many homes are in danger of catching fire.

Defensible spaces are divided into three different zones with different requirements.

Zone 0: Extends from 0 to 5 feet from your home.

Considered an ember-resistant zone, this particular range has proven to be the most important of all the defensible space zones. Zone 0 is ember-resistant because it is designed to keep fire or embers from igniting materials that spread possible fire to your home. Being the closest zone to your home, the zone includes the area around all attached decks and requires strict wildfire fuel reduction.

Zone 1: Extends 30 feet from your home.

This zone encompasses any nearby plants or vegetation that surround your home. Some homeowners may have a garden in their front or back yard that will need to be closely monitored. As this zone is still considered to be close to the circumference of your home, plan accordingly to prevent a disastrous fire from spreading to the interior of your home.

Zone 2: Extends 30 to 100 feet from your home.

Zone 2 is considered the one to reduce any fuel or gasoline that may come in contact with it. As this is the outer zone of your home, a great prevention method would be to create space between any greenery in this zone, preventing any fires from striking through and affecting the other zones closer to your home.

Protection Tips for Each Zone

Now that you have a better understanding of each zone, we suggest following these tips inside each zone. By separating the protection tips by zone, your home will have a better chance of protecting itself from wildfires.

Zone 0

  • Use hardscape like gravel, pavers, concrete and other noncombustible mulch materials.
  • Remove all dead and dying weeds, grass, plants, shrubs, trees, branches and vegetative debris
  • Check your roofs, gutters, decks, porches, stairways, etc.
  • Remove all branches within 10 feet of any chimney or stovepipe outlet
  • Set a minimum of combustible items (outdoor furniture, planters, etc.) on top of decks
  • Move any firewood and lumber to Zone 2
  • Substitute combustible fencing, gates, and arbors attach to the home with noncombustible alternatives
  • Consider moving garbage and recycling containers outside this zone
  • Consider moving boats, RVs, vehicles and other combustible items outside this zone

Zone 1

  • Clear away all dead vegetation, grass, and weeds
  • Remove any dead leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof, and gutters
  • Regularly trim your trees
  • Plant or trim trees so that their branches are 10 feet or more from other trees
  • Remove any branches that are hanging over your roof
  • Move wood piles outside of Zone 1
  • If you have a chimney, keep dead branches at least 10 feet away from it
  • Remove or trim any flammable plants near windows
  • Keep areas under and around decks free of vegetation and flammable objects
  • Maintain space in between flammable objects and trees to prevent flames from travelling

Zone 2

  • Do not let grass grow higher than four inches
  • Maintain minimum vertical and horizontal spacing (between grass, shrubs, and trees
  • Remove leaves, needles, small branches, pinecones, etc.

Minimum Spacing

There are specific vertical and horizontal space requirements that dictate how far away vegetation and flammable objects must be away from one another to deter fire spreading.

For vertical clearance, keep your tree branches trimmed so that they do not hang lower than 6 feet above the ground. If you have shrubs growing near a tree, keep a clearance of three times the shrub’s height between the shrub and the lowermost tree branches. For example, if you have a 4-foot shrub growing by a tree, the branches on that tree should not hang any lower than 12 feet from the top of that shrub.

Horizontal clearance requirements change depending on the type of plant and the slope of the land. This is because shrubs and trees burn differently and fire can travel uphill more quickly. Review the table below for the minimum horizontal clearance requirements. To find the minimum required distance between a shrub and a tree, use the greater distance requirement of the two.

Educate Others

Even if you succeeded in taking proactive action to prevent possible wildfires, many of whom you know (neighbors, family, friends, etc.) may not be as educated on the matter. As mentioned earlier in this article, 90% of land fires are caused by people while the other 10% are caused by nature, mostly lightning or lava. Keeping your close ones informed on the importance of taking preventive action can mitigate the possibility of being affected by wildfires on a larger scale.

Some human-caused fires result from unattended campfires, the burning of debris, and discarded cigarettes. In addition, backyard activities that involve any amount of fire can easily start a threatening fire and be just as harmful to the environment as any natural cause.

So how do we further educate ourselves and our community? One way is to alert your friends or family whenever they have an idea for an activity that involves the use of fire. Some common examples include gender reveals, candle lighting, and bonfires. Though these examples are not commonly thought to be at risk, related cases prove otherwise. These cases exhibit the damaging effects of these particular events if they were to become the cause of a fire. Familiarizing your close ones with these possible dangers and providing alternatives can keep you and any surrounding community safe and sound.

Don’t forget to check with your homeowners’ insurance company to see if they cover wildfires. In the event that your home is affected by a wildfire, having your insurance company cover some or all of the damages may prevent you from paying a much higher expense.

Keep Wildfires at Bay

How to protect your home from wildfires

Creating a safe buffer zone around your home not only protects your own assets, but when more people make their homes defensible, it comparatively slows the overall growth of the fire. In addition to the above requirements, things such as keeping lawns healthy and green, planting non-flammable vegetation such as sage and lilac, creating an evacuation plan with all other housemates, and mowing or cutting grass before 10 AM can greatly benefit the safety of you and your home. In the unfortunate event that your home is greatly affected by a wildfire, check with your homeowners’ insurance to see if they cover the damages caused by wildfires.

Visit http://www.fire.ca.gov/ or contact your local fire station for more tips and locally-based requirements.

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