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May is National Wildfire Awareness Month

This May is national wildfire awareness month. Last year we saw record-breaking wildfires engulf Northern California. An estimated 8.9 million acres were burned in the 2020 wildfire season, almost double the acreage burned in the 2019 season. Wildfire season is coming, and now is the perfect time to focus on wildfire preparedness. With a few simple precautions, homeowners can better protect their homes and communities from fire.

Preventing Wildfire Damage

Establishing a defensible space helps to keep fires away from structures, reduces the risk from flying embers, and helps firefighters to better protect properties. Defensible space consists of three zones around the structure and involves employing various measures in risk prevention. The following are guidelines provided by the Ready, Set, Go! Program and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

  • Immediate – Zone 1: 0-5 Feet Around the Home or to Property Line:
    • Use hard surfaces such as concrete or noncombustible rock mulch around the home
    • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris, and pine needles that could catch embers
    • Store firewood and other combustible materials away from the home, garage or attached deck
    • Trim back touching or over-hanging branches from the roof to a distance of at least 10 feet
    • Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration
  • Intermediate – Zone 2: 5-30 Feet Around Home or to Property Line:
    • Use non-wood, low-growing herbaceous vegetation
    • Create vegetation groups to break up continuous fuels around your home
    • Remove ladder fuels to create a separation between low-level vegetation and tree branches to stop the fire from climbing trees
    • Space trees to have a minimum of 18 feet between crowns with the distance increasing with the percentage of slope
    • Remove leaf and needle debris from the yard
    • Keep lawns and wild grass under 4 inches in height
    • Move trail/recreational vehicles, storage sheds and other combustible structures out of this zone and into Zone 3
  • Extended – Zone 3: 30-200 Feet Around Home or to Property Line:
    • Create and maintain a minimum of 10 feet between the top of trees
    • Remove ladder fuels to create a separation between low-level vegetation and tree branches to stop the fire from climbing trees
    • Remove dead trees and shrubs

Creating a good defensible space dramatically increases a home’s and a community’s chance of survival. Before smoke is on the horizon, communities should be taking steps to prepare. And what better time than national wildfire awareness month.

Responding to Active Threats

Wildfires can start and spread quickly, leaving little time to mull over your options. Create an emergency plan that includes all the logistics of evacuation — routes, emergency kit contents, etc. Don’t forget to store important documents somewhere safe, like a fireproof safe or flash drive. Make sure too that your insurance policy is up to date and will protect you in event of a disaster, including post-wildfire flooding. Keep yourself and your family safe in the future by taking steps now.