Wildfires: Protecting Your Property

Published on October 2, 2019
Last modified on September 30, 2021
Wildfire Safety

According to the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC), 58,950 wildfires burned 10.1 million acres in the U.S. in 2020 — the second most acreage in a year since 1960; 17,904 structures were destroyed.

While nearly 40% of the land impacted was in California, more wildfires actually occur in the east and central regions of the country, but the fires are smaller and burn less acreage.1

Wildfires are mainly unplanned and unwanted but there are ways to prepare.

Safeguard Your Home/Business2

Roof

  • Build/re-build your roof with materials such as composition, metal, clay or tile.  Wood or shingle roofs are the most vulnerable to fire.
  • Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching.

Vents

  • Cover all vent openings with 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch metal mesh. Do not use fiberglass or plastic mesh. Consider ember- or flame-resistant vents.

Windows

  • Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breakage.
  • Consider limiting the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation.
  • Install screens in all usable windows to increase ember resistance and decrease radiant heat exposure.

Walls

  • Build or remodel your walls with materials such as stucco, fiber cement wall siding, fire retardant, treated wood, or other approved materials. 

Landscape

  • Clear leaves/other debris from the property.
  • Keep at least a 30-foot radius around buildings clear of flammable materials such as firewood stacks, propane tanks, etc.
  • Prune trees so that the lowest branches are a minimum of six feet from the ground.
  • Keep the lawn hydrated and maintained.

Decks

  • Screen in exposed areas below buildings and under outdoor decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and other combustible materials from accumulating.

Driveways/Access Roads

  • Ensure that all gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate emergency equipment.
  • Trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass.

Water Supply

  • Have multiple garden hoses long enough to reach all structures on your property.

Prevention

  • Never leave a fire unattended. If you should notice an unattended or out-of-control fire, contact the proper authorities.
  • Completely extinguish any fire – by dousing it with water and stirring the ashes – before leaving the area.
  • Store fuel in appropriate containers away from appliances or any heat sources.
  • Never discard cigarettes, matches, or other lit or smoking materials without first ensuring they are extinguished . . . and then only in appropriate receptacles.
  • Always follow local ordinances when burning waste materials. Avoid doing so during windy conditions or near other flammable materials and always keep a fire extinguisher, shovel, water, and fire retardants nearby to keep fires in check.
  • Always have a portable fire extinguisher available and familiarize yourself with its use.

Helpful Resources

NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION
http://nfpa.org

NATIONAL INTERAGENCY FIRE CENTER
https://www.nifc.gov

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY AND FIRE PROTECTION
http://www.readyforwildfire.org

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1Source: National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) Wildland Fire Summary and Statistics annual report. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10244
2Source: CAL FIRE. Prepare for Wildfire. https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/get-ready/hardening-your-home/

Disclaimer: The GUARD Wire is designed to provide general information about various topics of interest and should NOT replace the guidance, advice, or recommendations from licensed insurance or legal professionals, other industry experts, or state and federal authorities.