After a particularly devastating 2017 wildfire season that totaled nearly 300,000 fires with more than 16 million acres burned, many homeowners are wondering how they can protect themselves from wildfire risk this spring.
While fires can be unpredictable, there are several steps homeowners can take now to minimize the risk of wildfires.
1. Assess your “defensible space”
Defensible space is the buffer that separates your home from the landscaping or woodland areas surrounding it. Adequate defensible space helps slow or stop a fire’s spread. It’s typically divided into 2 zones. Zone 1 extends about 30 feet out from your structures or decks and should have no dead plants, grass, or weeds. (If you have firewood piles, place them outside of Zone 1.)
Zone 2 extends 100 feet out and includes the rest of your landscaping.
2. Scan your surroundings
First, look for “ladder” fuel — smaller plants that grow below trees. If grasses, leaves, and branches reach from the ground up to your trees, they provide a ladder for fire to climb up a tree and spread. To remove ladder fuel, thin your trees and prune the lower branches off trees that are 6 to 10 feet tall.
Keep your grass low and well watered. Make sure to clear your lot of dry brush and other flammable material, such as pine needles and fallen leaves and never leave piles of raked leaves in your yard.
3. Maintain your roof
As you go about your spring maintenance tasks, ensure your gutters are cleared of pine needles, leaves, and other debris that can contribute to fires. And of course, while you’re up there, it’s smart to give your roof a good scan to check for any loose or missing shingles that might need replacing.
4. Plan your landscaping carefully
Ready to spruce up your yard for summer? First, include a “fuel-free zone” of 3 to 5 feet around the base of your home and additional structures. This barrier will keep fire-prone material away from the foundation of your house. Smart options include gravel or rocks.
If you’re putting in new plants, consider choosing ones that are less flammable, such as aloe, iris, wild ginger, and lavender. Deciduous trees, like ash and beech, are less likely to ignite than evergreens.
If possible, keep about 30 feet between plants to help prevent fire from easily transferring around the yard.
5. Don’t overlook your neighbors’ homes or common areas
One of the greatest dangers of a wildfire is how it quickly spreads from house to house. That’s why no matter how cautious you are about your yard, it’s vital that your neighbors also make fire-safe choices. If your neighbor has a feature that concerns you, such as a pile of leaves or dry, dead grass, be sure to mention it to your HOA or report it to city officials if you don’t feel comfortable talking to them yourself. And request that common areas like green belts are thinned and pruned to stay healthy, tackling the task with neighbors if needed.
6. Make sure firefighters have access to your home
Stand in the street in front of your house and make sure that your address can be easily read. If it’s not, consider having your curb numbers repainted or illuminating the numbers affixed to your home. And make sure your driveway is at least 12 feet wide to allow a fire truck ample access.
Another important thing you can do to minimize wildfire risk at home this spring? Make sure your home and belongings are adequately protected against an unforeseen tragedy. Get a free homeowners insurance quote today.