While most of us appreciate sitting back and enjoying the summer, it can be an unnerving time for millions of residents who are forced to constantly brace for wildfires that threaten their property.
With higher than normal temperatures and prolonged drought conditions this summer, wildfires in California and other Western states have been severe. In fact, there have been nearly 27,000 wildfires across the country through the first six months, destroying homes and millions of acres.
So what can you do if you own a home in areas prone to wildfires?
1. Prepare your home: Because the roof is your home’s feature most vulnerable to an outside fire, make sure you clean your gutters of dry leaves and use the right roofing material. Instead of wood or shingle, opt for steel, tile or composition roofs if possible. Wood is also common for walls but, since it is highly combustible, ignition resistant materials like fiber cement or stucco are better options.
2. Get defensive on your property: It’s important to clear any flammables from around your house, including firewood, debris and dry leaves or grass. With fire-resistant plants, proper spacing of trees and shrubs, and pruning, you should establish a buffer between your home and the outside world to stop a fire from reaching your home. If possible have several long garden hoses hooked up and ready for us use around your property.
3. Create an emergency plan: Understand how to receive emergency alerts and warnings from authorities, coordinate an evacuation plan with your family and develop an emergency supply kit, including food and fresh water for three days, flashlights, first aid kits and cell phone chargers. Check out ready.gov for more suggestions on an emergency plan and supply kit.
4. Make sure your insurance is in order: Call your independent agent or carrier to understand what your policy covers and make sure your policy is updated to reflect any changes to your property. If you’re a tenant we recommend purchasing renters insurance to cover any losses to personal property in the event of a fire.
5. Take an inventory: In the event a fire damages or destroys your home replacing your possessions may be easier if you documented the contents in your home. Save receipts in a fireproof lock box or save to the cloud, and record your rooms, garage, closets, appliances and valuables with video and photos.
To fully prepare, check out great resources like the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for more advice. Most importantly stay safe and pay close attention to fire and public safety officials in your region as wildfire threats escalate.