How to Minimize Risk While Living in Wildfire Areas

Wildfire-prone areas don’t make for friendly neighborhoods, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live there. In fact, in the majority of cases, you’re only going to need some careful planning and proactive measures to help minimize the risks to your property as well as your personal safety. We’ve put together the ultimate guide that’s going to increase your likelihood of safety and well-being while living in a wildlife-prone area. Keep these guidelines in mind and you should be better off in case of a wildfire breaking out.

Defensible Spaces

Formulate a safe zone by clearing around the house. Fire spreads from trunk to trunk, and the best way to stop a fire is to not give it additional fuel to continue onward. Clear away dead plants, dry leaves, and other flammable materials at least 30 feet from your home. Prune the branches that extend over your roof, and maintain spacing within vegetation. This prevents the spread of wildfires and gives firefighters a better opportunity to defend their property.

Fire-Resistant Plants

Some plant and tree species are naturally more resistant to wildfires than others. So, you should select species that are less flammable around your house, beyond the clearing of course. Choose succulents, deciduous trees, and low-growing ground covers. Ensure that the vegetation is at least 5 feet away from your home if you’re not putting them completely outside the cleared zone. Create an irrigated zone around your house so as to minimize fire hazards. Landscaping with fire-resistant plants is a natural way to prevent wildfires from spreading while keeping your property looking beautiful.

Regular Maintenance

Maintenance consistency is critical in ensuring low fire risk. Trim tree branches to maintain shape, eliminate dead vegetation, and remove dry leaves. This minimizes the possibility of fuel for fires. Verify that all gutters are clean and remove any dead plants or trees near the premises as soon as possible. It’s a fact that fires are less likely to get uncontrollable when there is continuous maintenance. Taming a wildfire once it reaches a well-maintained property is always faster and more successful.

Firebreaks and Fuel Breaks

Firebreaks are breaks or gaps created in the vegetation that halt the movement of wildfire. Fuel breaks and the demolition of underbrush can control the rate at which a fire spreads. These pauses serve as hindrances because they allow firefighters time to contain the flames before a loss of property. Do some research on ideal firebreaks and fuel breaks for your region and apply the relevant precautions.

Hardening Your Home

Fire-resistant materials make your home more resistant to fire, naturally. It’s highly recommended that you utilize such materials as stucco, metal, or cement siding. The chimneys and stovepipes should be fitted with spark arrestors. In case there are any gaps or vents through which embers could enter your home, seal them. 

Emergency Access

Make it convenient for emergency vehicles to reach driveways and access roads. Remove tree branches that may not allow the passage of fire trucks. Indicate your address visibly for easy identification by firefighters. The provision of clear emergency access remarkably increases the effectiveness of suppressing a fire during wildfires. If vehicles and firefighters can’t get close to your property easily, then controlling the spread of wildfire becomes quite hard. This might include creating new pathways or altering your exterior in fundamental ways.

Evacuation Plan

It’s highly recommended that you plan a detailed evacuation plan beforehand. Identify several routes to evacuation and communicate them with family members. Prepare necessary items, such as documents, medicines, and emergency provisions. Settle on an exterior meeting point away from the danger zone. Be aware of community evacuation programs and be up-to-date on wildfire levels. You’ll be surprised by just how effective and reliable a well-rehearsed evacuation plan is in ensuring your own safety and the well-being of the people around you.

More Fundamental Changes

The Wildfire Risk to Communities is an organization that actively works toward reducing risk from wildfires. According to the organization, there are eight main ways in which you can reduce the risk. Some of these ways require more structural changes than the regular guidelines we provided above. Review these steps as well, maybe there’s something here that will help you fight wildfire damage better.

  1. Ignition-Resistant Homes: fire-resistant building materials and landscaping.
  2. Land Use Planning: Communities in wildfire-prone areas should develop with proper planning and regulations.
  3. Evacuation & Readiness: Community alerts, evacuation routes, and family plans can help improve the preparedness for evacuation. 
  4. Equitable Risk Reduction: Some people in a community are more vulnerable. Addressing their social and economic vulnerabilities can help stop the spread of wildfires through collective effort, so everyone is safer when a fire breaks out.
  5. Smoke Ready: The smoke that results from a wildfire is a major concern and can be more harmful to people than the fire itself in some cases, such as if the fire has been controlled, but continues to rage on in an area close by. Prepare for the health impacts of this smoke.
  6. Prevent Ignitions: Every ignition from a campfire, burning debris, vehicle, or household items adds fuel. Reduce ignition sources to control wildfires better.
  7. Response: Ensure there is proper management to fight wildfire.
  8. Hazardous Fuel Management: Flammable vegetation on the landscape should be routinely cut, thinned, or burned safely.

Wrapping Up

The tips above aren’t going to be enough to tackle each and every situation. After all, there are a lot of variables at play here, and a wildfire in California needs to be dealt with a little differently than one in, let’s say, in Texas.

That being said, the practical advice above is good for almost all real-world cases of wildfires regardless of the region, but you should still have some actionable intelligence about stuff such as keeping your equipment ready all the time, being prepared to evacuate on short notice, staying informed about local weather conditions, regularly reviewing your insurance coverage, participating in community programs, and so on.

All of this comes from experience, but it’s never too late to start learning the ins and outs of wildfire protection. Hopefully, our guide helped nudge you in the right direction and take the right precautionary steps.