Wildfire safety and prevention starts at home. Wildfires, started by lighting strikes or man-made, burn on average over 7 million acres in the US annually. While these fires can be scary, there is a lot you can do to protect your home and preventing these fires from even happening.
Wildfire Safety Tips
Above all, never leave a fire unattended. It blows my mind that this is something that still needs to be said. My husband and I have come across many abandoned campfires in the woods near our neighborhood creek.
Thankfully we were able to put them out before they spread. If you find an abandoned campfire, put it out or if you can’t, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Please be smart with cigarette butts and fireworks as well. If the weather has been hot and dry, it may be best to skip the fireworks for another time. And no matter how the weather is, please dispose of cigarette butts properly.
Contrary to popular belief, they don’t decompose completely and have started many fires. Many wildfires are man-made and completely preventable.
Before a wildfire starts…
Keep leaves and debris cleared from your gutters, decks, and close to your home. Flying embers can land and catch in dried debris easily.
Clear trees and brush away from your home. Homes are often considered “un-savable” because of trees and brush up against a house.
Firefighters will move on to a home that is considered “savable.” Trim tree branches so that the lowest are 6′ above the ground on all trees in your yard.
Store firewood, gasoline, propane, and charcoal safely. Instead of stacking your firewood against your house, try to store all these fuel sources at least 30′ from your home.
Clear yard debris quickly. Don’t let these potential bonfires stack up and dry out in your yard.
Have an emergency evacuation plan! Know ahead of time what you want to take with you and where you will go (if possible). Take things such as important documents and medications, and more if time permits.
If a wildfire is near you or heading in your direction…
Be aware of evacuation notices. Do not take these lightly. Know your evacuation route(s) and have a plan of where to go. Don’t forget to plan for your animals as well.
Clean up all combustibles. Clear lighter fluid, propane, gasoline, firewood, charcoal, and grills far from your home and any surrounding homes.
Close up all the doors and windows. Don’t forget to turn off the natural gas, propane, or oil fuel as well.
Fill up large containers with water. Pools, garbage cans, hot tubs, etc. These could help slow down the fire or even discourage it. If you have time before you evacuate, get your sprinkler going. Get the outside of your house, garage, shed, and yard as wet as possible.
Leave your hose and sprinkler out after you evacuate. It wouldn’t be the first time that firefighters used a homeowners garden hose to help fight a fire.
One of my favorite stories from an Alaska wildfire was of a homeowner leaving their sprinkler going on top of their chicken coop. (They were unable to take the chickens with them. It’s horrible, but a sad truth of these quick moving fires.) They came home to not only the firefighters having saved their home, but all their chickens healthy and safe too!
Pack up the necessities. Everyone wants to pack up the family heirlooms and pictures that are irreplaceable. If there is time and space, by all means take these with you, but don’t forget the everyday items you may need too.
Toothbrush and paste, diapers, a few changes of clothes, wallet and purse, important documents, toiletries, etc. A couple of pillows and blankets are a good idea too.
Don’t just rely on evacuation centers to provide everything. During a large wildfire, resources can get stretched thin. Don’t forget medications as well.
Take pictures of every room in your house. Be sure to include pictures of major electronics and appliances. Should the worst happen, pictures will make things easier with the insurance company.
Don’t forget your pet’s necessities. Food, food and water dishes, registration and shot paperwork and any medications. If you have livestock that you’re able to take with you, take at least two day’s worth of feed.
A great tip I’ve seen is to write your cell phone number on livestock’s hooves with a permanent marker, just in case you get separated.
Only return to your home when cleared to do so by officials.
Be safe and ready!
Having lived in Alaska for over 30 years, I’ve seen millions of acres burn and many homes and lives destroyed. A few simple preparation for wildfire safety can potentially save homes and lives.
On the plus side in these awful situations, I’ve also seen communities come together to help each other in amazing ways.
Find more on wildfire safety, preparation, and training at the National Fire Protection Association. With this list, you can make sure your home is ready for summertime wildfire season.
Be sure to check out our Winter Home Preparedness list too!