This week I will cover some tips to protect your home or business from the threat of wildfire.
The threat of wildfire is growing nationwide and, due to changing climate conditions, wildfire is now a threat almost year-round.
There are some low-cost actions you can take. Other precautions are more costly; but as a property owner you already understand owning a structure means continual investment to maintain your home or commercial property.
These tips can also be easily applied to homes owned by readers outside the West River area, and we have quite a few.
I will cover low-cost options first and then get into higher cost items that are proven to save homes in many fire scenarios.
The one scenario to keep up front in your mind is that fire crews can’t defend every property. They will often choose to make a stand at homes that have the best chance of survival based on the building materials used.
As an example, crews may choose to make a stand at a home with a metal roof over a home with wood shake roof — knowing they have the best chance saving the property with the metal roof.
Easy low-cost steps for protecting your property
1. Remove dead brush and tree branches from your entire
property, and cut out low tree branches.
2. Avoid using beauty bark materials in landscaping and use
3. Make sure all plants remain at least 5 feet away from any
4. Keep your trash and recycle bins at least 30 feet away from
5. Keep fire wood piles at least 30 feet away from your home.
Moderately priced (<$1,000) steps to protect your property
1. Box in your eaves if you have open construction. Meaning,
if you can see your roof rafter tails they are “exposed” or open.
Use Class A fire resistant materials such as Hardie® trim
boards or textured panels, which are actually a concrete, f
iberglass and resin material that looks like wood and cuts and
secures like wood, but is not wood.
2. Make sure garage doors close fully with no gaps.
3. If you have a history of fires in proximity to your home,
install fire shutters on all windows made of manmade Class A
fire -rated materials.
Higher cost jobs you can do (or contract out) that will need be done at some point on any home or commercial structure.
1. Replace your roof with steel roofing or Class A fire-rated
materials; not all shingles are created equal.
2. Replace siding with HardiePlank® lap siding, stone
materials, or metal.
3. Replace single-pane windows with double- or quad-pane
windows with metal frames.
4. Install in-home fire sprinklers with reserve tanks. They
don’t cost as much as you might think.
Think beyond your property
1. Make sure neighborhood fire hydrants are easily seen
and keep them painted with Hi Viz Yellow paint. Install blue
pavement markers (also known as Botts’ dots or road turtles)
or reflective raised pavement markers 30 feet from the
hydrants. Make sure hydrants can be accessed a full 360
degrees and up to six feet outward.
2. Help your elderly neighbor clean their yard of debris and
3. If you have large dead trees (such as pines with pine
beetle damage) on property lines, work with your neighbors
to collectively pay for the removal. In some areas of the
country, tree service companies will remove trees free of
charge if they can keep the wood.
Myths and Misconceptions
1. MYTH: Installing fire sprinkler systems on your roof or in
your yard will help.
When a major fire erupts in a neighborhood, all residential
water is often diverted to the hydrants to maximize pressure.
2. MYTH: Homeowners insurance policies cover wild fires.
They do not. In more and more states, special riders are
required for homes, structures and vehicles.
3. MYTH: The fire fighters will get to us; we do not need to
In a wild fire, especially in rural areas with small volunteer
departments, people power is scarce. Have a “go bag” ready
and leave before the fire reaches your street.
Mark your entry door with a red X upon leaving. This
indicates to rescuers that the building or home is clear of
people so they can move on to the next home. Be ready to go at
least an hour before an evacuation order of any level.
4. MYTH: The fire department knows what you have…after all,
you get inspected each year.
If you own a business, have all chemical place cards in a
highly visible area at the entry to your business. Drop off a list
of known, always on hand, daily-use hazmat products you
stock to your fire chief. This saves lives and time.
The fire department knows ahead of time what is there and
how (or if) they can safely defend it, they can order
evacuations based on what you have ahead of time, thus
saving your neighborhood from deadly explosions or chemical
5. FACT: Be ready to live outside of your home for three days
in case of fire. This means survival, not comfort.
Last but not least, as a homeowner, housing authorities and non-profits will help you through a fire emergency as best they can. If you are able, and not yet an elder, leave these resources for those who can’t get resources due to age or other factors out of their control. If you own a home and work, there are many lending options open right now as rates are dipping again to record lows.