10 Ways to Protect Your Home During Wildfire Season

10 Ways to Protect Your Home During Wildfire Season

Every summer, homes, lives and property are at risk of being engulfed in flames from the thousands of wildfires western states endure every year. Utah is at the center of these fires that span from Colorado to California.

Governor Cox, the Utah Bureau of Land Management, and several local fire departments have already begun urging Utahns to exercise caution when recreating in our wilderness. From chains dragging on pavement, abandoned campfires, ricocheting bullets, cigarettes, errant fireworks[1] to the horrendous but all too common purposeful manmade fires, there are plenty of reasons Utahns should begin preparing now to save their homes, lives and property.

In Park City, Utah, where I live, we had a fireworks ban over the Fourth of July weekend. The city cancelled their annual fireworks show, and igniting fireworks of any kind was banned due to how dry it is here. My house backs up to the wilderness and I am in constant fear of a wildfire coming through and burning my house down. I even have cameras that face away from my house so that I can see if my pets and home are in danger when I am at work in Salt Lake City.

Needless to say, many people in Park City set off ground and airborne fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend. As much as I disapprove of heavy government oversite, I was relieved that there was a ban in place this year. Unlike other summers, we have had almost no rain in Summit County. Our reservoirs have dried up and the trees and brush that cover our hills and mountains are dry.

The homeowners of Park City were incredibly lucky that fires did not start due to the fireworks that were ignited. This does bring up a very important concept however- protecting your home during wildfire season.

I have outlined 10 important steps to take to protect your home during wildfire season. Cleaning the area around your home of flammable debris, laying down fire resistant landscaping, and clearing the flammable materials that are touching your home are a few examples of how to actively protect your home. Below are the full 10 ways to protect your home during wildfire season.

10 Ways to Protect Your Home from a Wildfire

1. Clear the area of brush and bramble

Many homes and cabins in Utah are remotely located and surrounded by natural wildlife. While pine trees and the natural bramble that is prevalent Utah is beautiful and gives us the cabin-like feeling that so many Utahns and tourists love, it is nothing but kindling that can cause your home to be burned to the ground.

Fire marshals and the Bureau of Land Management advise on clearing at least 30 feet of area around your home of dry bushes, pinecones, pine needles, dead leaves, and even decorative bark.[2]

 2. Rake and Remove

The decorative bark and mulch was expensive and beautiful, but in a wildfire, it provides nothing but a clear path for a fire to travel which can then ignite your whole house. Rake bark and flammable mulch at least 5 feet away from your home. Leave the area clear with only dirt or topsoil, and do not allow bark and mulch to touch your home. Instead of decorative bark, consider other options such as crushed stone, decorative rocks, or gravel.

3. Trim and Minimize

Trim all trees, bushes, plants and grasses that are within 30 feet of your home, and most importantly trim those that are within 5 feet of your home or other structure. Limiting the ability for flames to jump from plant to plant, and then plant to home is vital in protecting the homes and structures on your property.

 

  1. Clean the Roof and Gutters

An often-forgotten area of our homes, unless it is leaking, is the roof. Make sure to clean out all gutters and the crevices in the roof of all dry leaves, pinecones, pine needles, and other debris that may have accumulated that would be instant kindling for flying embers[3].

 

  1. Clear the area of anything flammable

Just because it did not come from nature, does not mean it is not flammable. Old cars, wood files, spare lumber or construction material, boats, jet skis, sand rails, ATV’s, campers, propane tanks, grills and anything else that can become a large fuel source should be moved to a storage unit, a garage, or somewhere off property until fire season is over.

 

  1. Store your outdoor furniture and decorations

The Brian Head Volunteer Firefighter Association advises on clearing out your gutters, decks, patios and porches. If a fire is imminent, it is advised to store all furniture, cushions, rugs, mats and decorations. These items can become engulfed in flames simply from flying embers. It is best to not give any embers or flames a chance at further igniting and spreading. Do not forget to remove all items stored and vegetation under decks and porches as well.

 

  1. Change your roof and home exterior to be fire-resistant

If you have the time and money to spend on upgrading your roof, it is highly advised to install a fire-resistant roof, and change the exterior of your home to be fire resistant as well. Consider fire-resistant roofing materials such as composite shingles, metal, concrete or clay tiles. Examples of fire-resistant exteriors include materials such as brick, fiber-cement, plaster or stucco, and also install dual-pane tempered glass windows. Wood roofs and flammable exteriors can ignite from small flying embers that a fire-resistant roof and exterior would not. Consider upgrading, and contact your insurance company to see if they will offer you a credit as a preventative investment.

 

  1. Firewise Landscaping

Proper landscaping design can actually aid in the prevention of a wildfire igniting your home. Fire needs fuel, oxygen and heat to burn. If you design your landscaping so that within 5-30 feet of your home you do not have flammable brush, bark or trees i.e. the fuel, the odds of having a running fire approach your home is far less than if you have flammable landscaping that only feeds the fire.

 

  1. Create a barricade of sand and stones

Having plain dirt as opposed to grasses and bushes surrounding your home is not appealing. Consider surrounding your home with decorative rocks and gravel that will not only be aesthetically pleasing, but will also act as a defensible space to protect your home.

 10. Emergency Responder Access

If you are unfortunate enough to be in a situation where the fire is approaching and you have to evacuate, consider doing these few things to prevent errant embers entering your home; seal your doors, windows and pet doors tightly. Take all family members and pets with you and leave a note on the front door for fire fighters that everyone has evacuated. Take only what you need and evacuate quickly. Do not return until the fire marshal allows you to.

 

 

[1] Brian Maffly, “Cox says Utah wildfires could cost hundreds of millions of dollars if prediction hold,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 26, 2021, https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2021/05/26/cox-says-utah-wildfires/

[2] Reem Ikram, “7 ways to protect your home from wildfires,”ABC4.com, May 1, 2021, https://www.abc4.com/news/local-news/7-ways-to-protect-your-home-from-wildfires/

[3] “Six Things You Should Know about Living with Wildfire in Emigration Canyon”, http://www.emigrationcanyon.org/wildfire/

 

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