Wildfire season is here. As of June 15, there were 19 active fires in Arizona alone. Though the threat of wildfires is greater in the western part of the country, they pose a threat in every state. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, over 70,000 wildfires occur annually and burn more than 5 million acres of land. More than 900 homes each year, on average, are destroyed by wildfires.
If you own a vacation home in a forested area, or plan to be renting one this summer, it’s imperative to take steps to protect your property – and your family – from the devastation a fire can cause.
Step One: Trim your risk
Wildfires rely on heat and embers moving between fuel sources in order to spread. One of the most effective ways to prevent fire from reaching your home is to keep the surrounding area clear of vegetation and other flammable objects. Use the Zone Plan (sidebar) to guide you, and follow these landscaping tips:
- Thin trees so they are at least 10 feet apart, and remove dead or dying trees and shrubs from your yard.
- Keep vegetation trimmed and pruned. Lower branches should be at least six feet off the ground and shrubs planted under trees should only be 18 inches high.
- Keep your lawn groomed and dispose of clippings and debris promptly.
- Install and maintain an irrigation system.
- Clear your roof, gutters and eaves of excess debris.
- Trim branches so they do not extend over your roof or near a chimney.
- Move firewood at least 50 feet away from your home and clear the area 10 feet around woodpiles.
- Store flammable liquids safely and properly.
- Do not connect wooden fences directly to your home.
Step Two: Material safety
The type of materials that your home is made of can also protect it from damage. Take these recommendations into consideration when building or remodeling:
- Use only non-combustible roofing materials.
- Box in eaves, fascias, soffits and subfloors with fire-resistant materials, such as treated wood.
- Apply a quarter-inch non-combustible screening to all vent or eave openings.
- Install spark arresters in chimneys.
- Enclose the undersides of decks with fire-resistant materials.
- Cover exterior walls with fire-resistant materials, such as stucco, stone or brick. Vinyl siding is not recommended, as it can melt easily.
- Use double-paned or tempered glass for all exterior windows.
Step Three: Preparation is key
Wildfires can start suddenly and spread in very unpredictable ways. Even if you are only vacationing for a short time, you should be prepared. Taking these precautions can save you valuable time in an emergency:
- Create a family evacuation plan. Identify multiple escape routes from your home and neighborhood.
- Designate a meeting place for your family to reunite if you get separated during the evacuation.
- Put together an emergency kit consisting of a three-day supply of drinking water, non-perishable food, first aid supplies, and other necessary items. Include cash and a credit card, if possible. Don’t forget to plan for your pets’ needs, too.
- Become familiar with your local area’s disaster planning and other services that exist nearby.
Fight Fire with Fire Experts
While wildfires pose a real threat to homes in forested areas, many of the risks can be addressed through proper planning. Inspections, when completed by a certified professional, can provide valuable insight into your property’s ability to withstand a wildfire. It’s also important to meet with a qualified insurance broker, who can provide a review of your unique exposures and the policies available to you.
If you own a home in a wildfire-prone area, contact your General Southwest advisor to learn more about your insurance options and to make sure your property is protected should disaster strike.
Article sourced from Zywave©