Wildfires destroy hundreds of homes each year, along with thousands of acres of woodlands. From May to October, wildfires are a serious threat in many areas of the country. There are many steps you can take to help protect your home from the threat of wildfire.
Make choices for your home that would help prevent your home from catching on fire before the threat of wildfire becomes a reality. Choose building materials that have been treated with fire-retardants. Older materials such as wood shake roofs can be very dangerous when a fire spreads airborne embers. Perform routine maintenance on schedule, such as gutter cleaning and grass cutting, keeping flammable materials to a minimum. One of the most important things is to create a clear zone with around your house as a fire break. FEMA recommends a 30-foot clear zone around your home. Keep the amount of vegetation in this zone to a minimum. Fire travels quickly uphill. The steeper the slope of your area, the more open space you need to protect your home.
If wildfires are a threat in your area, an emergency preparedness kit is a necessity. You should update this kit every six months to be sure you keep all the necessary items, such as medications and food, current and not past the expiration dates. This kit should enough food and water to last three days for each person, a first aid kit, any necessary prescription medications, and a change of clothes for each person. A battery-powered or crank-operated radio is important to have, as well as a flashlight and extra batteries. A fire extinguisher should be part of this kit and everyone in your family should know how to use it. Include an upgraded medical kit that has treatment for burns. You should also keep a fireproof box in your kit with all your important family documents inside. This kit should be ready to go at all times, packed in containers that are ready to move in case of evacuation. You do not want to try to pack an emergency kit in the middle of a wildfire emergency.
If you live in an area prone to wildfires, it would be wise to have a fire escape hood and/or mask for each member of your family on hand. Wildfires are unpredictable and you should take every precaution available when preparing yourself against them.
Keep abreast of wildfire alerts by listening to your radio or television station. A radio with NOAA alert will give you real-time emergency information. If there is any chance of the fire coming in your direction, prepare early. The path of a wildfire can be unpredictable. Load your car with the possessions and supplies you plan to take. If you are told to evacuate, don’t delay. Be sure to have evacuation plans for your pets. Make an emergency kit for your animals if they are evacuating with you, following the same guidelines you would for yourself. Include enough water and food for 72 hours. Make sure to pack enough medications for that same period of time.
In the event of an evacuation, follow the instructions of the officials in charge. Make sure your emergency kit is in your car. Turn on the lights and leave a light on in every room. Close the windows and if the blinds or curtains are fire-resistant, close them as well.If you are in an official evacuation zone, it is recommended that you leave your house closed, but unlocked. That will give firefighters quick access to your home. The entire area will be isolated and patrolled by police.
Know at least two routes out of your neighborhood in case one is blocked. Communicate your evacuation plan with family members, friends and neighbors so they know where you’re headed and when. Good preparation can enable you to escape a wildfire without harm.