Keep Your Home Safe from Wildfire

Blog courtesy of the Missoula Organization of Realtors.

It’s that time of year again.  If you live in a dry area or out of the city limits in the country, you may one day find yourself battling with a raging wildfire. Wildfires don’t really compare to city fires. They are much larger, unpredictable, and spread like, well, wildfire. They can start quietly and unnoticed, then quickly spread and change direction, jumping gaps like roads or rivers.

Since wildfires can start from natural events like lightning or from other people’s carelessness, they can’t always be prevented. Wildfires are a fact of life for people who live on mountainsides, near forests or in grasslands. If you live in one of these areas, it’s best to be like a boy scout who is always prepared.

Here are some of the things you can do to arm yourself for another man vs. nature battle:

Understand Fire Behavior

First of all, understand fire behavior. Fire is influenced by fuel, slope, and weather.

2011 Bonner Fire. Photo by Paul Queneau.

Wildfires feed mainly on vegetation. Small twigs and leaves can catch fire and be carried by the wind, helping the fire to spread. Larger hunks of vegetation like trees and branches keep the wildfire alive, sometime burning for hours or days

Fire travels faster uphill than downhill. This is because flames reach upwards than downwards. As a rule of thumb, the steeper the slope, the faster the fire travels.

Wildfires thrive in dry, hot, windy weather. The wind helps the fire to spread and also feeds it oxygen. Starve the Fire

Cut down on available fuel for the fire by creating a 30-foot safety zone around your house. This area should have little to no vegetation. Clear the area regularly of any dead leaves, branches, and so on. If you live on a hill, the safety zone should be wider in the uphill direction.

Beyond this area, any trees should have at least 15 feet clearance from the ground. They should also have this distance between them.

Fortify Your Home

Try to include fire barriers as part of your house design. Swimming pools, ponds and tennis courts are all attractive house features that are also effective as barriers.

Where possible, use fire-proof materials. If you must use wood, have it treated. Keep smoke alarms and fire extinguishers on each floor.

2011 Bonner Fire. Photo by Paul Queneau.

Plan Your Escape

Create an escape plan and practice it with your family. Make sure that it includes safe exits to every room in the house and an agreed-upon meeting place outside the room. Someone should be responsible for getting small children and the elderly to safety.

Be smart and get home and contents insurance, and make sure it has a fire clause. Finally, pack an emergency bag that you and your family can just grab and go.

No one likes to think about everything they’ve ever worked for going up in smoke. But sometimes planning for the worst can help things turn out for the best. The tips discussed just touch on some of the major things you can do to protect yourself. To be well and truly prepared, it is best to get educated by your local fire department.