Wildfires serve a key purpose in Mother Nature’s plan; they provide a way to clear out dead organic material. Unfortunately, this does not stop them from being immensely dangerous to us and our homes.
Many areas in Utah are at risk of wildfires, and wildfire risks are only expected to increase due to climate change. Consider a research paper that examined data from California’s Sierra Nevada fires from 2001 to 2021. It projected that wildfires could increase by up to 20% in the 2040s and that burned areas could grow by at least 25%.
There’s never been a better time to protect your home and family from the dangers of wildfires. We polled our Utah fire clean up experts and created this blog to help you be ready if wildfires threaten your area.
How to Prepare for a Wildfire
There are many ways to prepare your home ahead of time to ensure it is as safe as possible. First, there is a solution recommended by the National Fire Protection Association called the defensible space concept. This is where you divide the land around your property into buffer zones to help protect it from any encroaching wildfires.
Essentially, you split the property into three zones covering different distances, and each one helps control the spread of fire. These are the areas that you should plan and what you should do with them:
Outside the Home
If possible, make sure all exterior materials on your home are made of fire-resistant materials. Fire-resistant glass can be installed in all windows and fire shutters can be added to help minimize window damage. Non-combustible roofing, soffits, decking, and siding can be used when building new additions to your property or used to replace older, less-resistant ones.
Zone 1: Property to 30 feet
You should keep all the external areas of your property clear of debris, including dead or dry plants or bushes. Keep all fresh plants and bushes healthy and watered, and do not keep any dried wood or leaves here. Ensure any flammable outdoor furniture and decorations are away from the property and regularly clear out the guttering.
Zone 2: 30 feet to 100 feet
Ensure all lawn areas are kept trimmed to no more than 4 inches in height and regularly clear up any fallen leaves or tree debris. Avoid leaving any flammable materials in this area. Also, make sure there are no trees here or that they are spaced no closer than 10 feet apart. For sloped surfaces, increase this distance to between 20 and 30 feet. Keep all bushes and shrubs neatly trimmed.
Zone 3: 100 feet to 200 feet
Thin out any trees and bushes in this zone and remove as much dead and dry vegetation as you can. Minimize contact between trees to prevent spread between them.
Inside the Home
Ensure all smoke and fire alarms are fully functional and that you have fire extinguishers available in all rooms. Keep a wildfire preparedness kit in an easy-to-reach location and plan an escape route that will take you past it. If your home has an upper floor, keep emergency escape ladders near larger windows if you cannot exit via the ground floor.
Regularly practice your escape routes with your family to ensure everyone knows where they will need to go and what to do. You should also keep all your important insurance documents in a fireproof safe alongside a complete inventory of your property to help ease the process of an insurance claim.
You should also reach out to friends or family in areas within driving distance of your home that would not be caught in a wildfire. Plan a destination to go to if you must evacuate and know the precise route to get there (accounting for potential road closures and a loss of GPS navigation signals).
Your Wildfire Preparedness Kit
As with floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes, health and safety professionals have come up with a set kit you can prepare to help you in the case of disaster. Recommendations include:
- Bottled Water – at least a gallon per person in your household for at least 5-7 days. Do not rely on tap water, as your household supply could become contaminated in an emergency. Plastic bottles are also ideal, as glass bottles could become damaged.
- Food – non-perishable items to last for a week per person in your household. Be sure to check your supplies regularly and replace them if any items go too far past their expiration date.
- Prescription Medications – keep a supply of spare medications to ensure that anyone who needs them has them.
- Wind-up Radio – allows you to keep up with weather updates and local announcements.
- Battery-powered Flashlights – with spare batteries to ensure you have a mobile light source.
- Face Masks – especially if any of your family members suffer from respiratory issues.
- Fire Extinguishers – in case of small fires in your safe spaces.
- Unpowered Entertainment – playing cards and board games can help occupy you and calm nerves as you wait for the all-clear.
What to Do When a Wildfire Approaches
If a national wildfire warning is announced, the key is not to panic. Try to keep yourself and any members of your family calm while you monitor updates. Assuming you have time, load up your preparedness kit and any important documents you will need once the fire has passed. Prepare your pets to evacuate as well.
If you have the time, check through your house to ensure that everything is prepared to weather the storm. Shut off your gas and water valves and secure all windows and doors with fire screens if you have them.
If the wildfire begins to close in on your home, leave immediately. You should not attempt to wait out the fire in your home, as the chances are great that it will not protect you. Evacuate to the safe location you have already planned, far away from the fire, with everything you have already packed. This will allow you a safe place to wait until the fire is brought under control and an all-clear is given, at which point you can then return to your home.
Home Already Affected by a Wildfire?
In case your home is damaged by wildfire, you can contact a Utah fire restoration company. Reliable companies have trained staff who work efficiently and safely to remove any debris and hazardous materials after a fire. Rather than bear the stress and burden of fire cleanup, get professionals to complete the job and make your home a safe place again.