Wildfire mitigation at home: How to protect your property

You are currently viewing Wildfire mitigation at home: How to protect your property

Share these steps with your insurance clients to help with wildfire mitigation at home

  1. Wildfires are becoming more rampant across the country, due to lessened precipitation.
  2. Last year, 58,948 wildfires burned more than 7.1 million acres.
  3. Learn 25 steps to wildfire mitigation at home, creating a defensible space around your property.
  4. When notified of a wildfire, learn 20 more steps to take before you evacuate (if there’s time!).

 

With many parts of the country already at a rainfall deficit for the year, now’s the time to focus on wildfire mitigation at home. In recent years, wildfires have continued to destroy more homes, outbuildings and commercial structures than ever before.

In 2021, 58,948 wildfires burned more than 7.1 million acres, according to Insurance Information Institute. California led the pack, with 9,260 fires, followed by Texas with 5,576 fires; North Carolina with 5,151 fires; and Montana, with 2,573 fires.

Related: Wildfire safety tips for businesses

Remind your homeowner clients that there are a number of steps they can take now to reduce the likelihood of a wildfire burning their property. There’s quite a bit of work involved, so homeowners should start now on their wildfire mitigation at home.

It all starts with understanding the various zones of defensible space, and concentrating your mitigation there, because this is your property’s front line defense against wildfire. This information is provided by National Fire Protection Agency and CalFire.

 

Zone 1 defensible space

In Zone 1, the closest 30 feet to your house, you should:

  • Remove all dead leaves, plants, grass, pine needles and weeds.
  • Remove all debris from your gutters and roof.
  • Replace any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
  • Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal mesh screening to reduce embers.
  • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows to prevent embers from entering.
  • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles.
  • Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.
  • Keep tree branches trimmed at least 10 feet away from your house and from other trees.
  • Trim all trees up so that their lowest branches are at least six feet from the ground.
  • Remove any vegetation underneath trees near the house.
  • Mow before 10 a.m., and never on a hot or windy day, to prevent sparks. String trimmers are a safer option.
  • Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.
  • Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios and decks.
  • Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches.
  • Space trees to have a minimum of eighteen feet between crowns or significantly more if you’re on a slope.
  • Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape.
  • Ensure your house address can be clearly seen from the street.
Related: Top homeowners risks (and tips on how to lower them)

 

Zone 2

Zone 2 encompasses 30-100 feet from your house:

  • Keep grass at a maximum height of four inches.
  • Create horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees, to prevent a “fire ladder”.
  • Remove heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris, dead plant and tree material.
  • Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.
  • Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.
  • Trees 30 – 60 feet from the home should have at least 12 feet between canopy tops.*
  • Trees 60 – 100 feet from the home should have at least 6 feet between the canopy tops.*
Related: Steps for business recovery after a wildfire

 

Other steps for wildfire mitigation at home

  • Have a go-bag packed; be sure to add medications, foodstuffs and important papers.
  • Know your exit route beforehand, and decide where you’ll meet up with family members driving other vehicles.
  • Outside:
    • Gather flammable items from outside and bring them inside (patio furniture, children’s toys, door mats, trash cans, etc.) or place them in your pool.
    • Turn off propane tanks.
    • Move propane BBQ grills or smokers away from structures.
    • Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters. Fill water buckets and place them around the house.
    • Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running: They can affect critical water pressure.
    • Leave exterior lights on so your home is visible to firefighters in the smoke or darkness of night.
    • Back your car into the driveway with vehicle loaded and all doors and windows closed. Carry your car keys with you.
    • Have a ladder available and place it at the corner of the house for firefighters to quickly access your roof.
    • Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
    • Patrol your property and monitor the fire situation. Don’t wait for an evacuation order if you feel threatened.
    • Check on neighbors and make sure they are preparing to leave.
  • Inside your house:
    • Shut all windows and doors, leaving them unlocked.
    • Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters.
    • Remove lightweight curtains.
    • Move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors.
    • Shut off gas at the meter; turn off pilot lights.
    • Leave your lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions.
    • Shut off the air conditioning.

 

For more information on wildfire mitigation at home, download NFPA’s Firewise information sheet or CalFire’s Defensible Space information sheet.