A week or so ago a commentor pointed out that there are always so many articles on starting fires and not enough about preventing them. Considering the most recent round of wildfires in San Diego and Arizona, it’s obvious this topic is a good one to discuss going into prime wildfire season. And, though home fire safety is related and equally important–if not more so–this post is solely about wildfires.
What exactly constitutes a wildfire?
According to wikipedia, a wildfire is:
A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Other names such as brush fire, bushfire, forest fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, peat fire, vegetation fire, and veldfire may be used to describe the same phenomenon depending on the type of vegetation being burned, and the regional variant of English being used. A wildfire differs from other fires by its extensive size, the speed at which it can spread out from its original source, its potential to change direction unexpectedly, and its ability to jump gaps such as roads, rivers and fire breaks. Wildfires are characterized in terms of the cause of ignition, their physical properties such as speed of propagation, the combustible material present, and the effect of weather on the fire.”
The important points to remember are that:
- wildfires have extensive size – it might be hard to evade as they can be many miles wide.
- the speed they can spread – it’s difficult to outrun even in a car as fires can travel at highway speeds!
- their potential to change direction unexpectedly – even if you thought you weren’t in danger because the fire was “heading the other direction” you could quickly become in danger due to shifting winds.
- they can jump roads and rivers – wind can carry embers a long way and start fires almost anywhere, even across major obstacles.
How are most wildfires started?
You might guess lighting strikes as the biggest culprit (they are a big one) or maybe Smoky the Bear took up smoking cigarettes, but the fact is that most wildfires are started by people! In fact, not even arsonists or misguided teenage youth are to blame… it’s often just careless people not properly putting out a campfire, mindlessly tossing cigarette butts out the window, or something like that.
The point: don’t be a dumbass! Be responsible for your own actions. Put out that campfire completely. Keep your darn cigarette butts in your car and dispose of them properly all while not littering at the same time.
Steps you can take to minimize damage by wildfires to your home (and your potential for starting them)
Certainly you cannot control what others do. Besides being a good steward of the land when out and about, you can and should attempt to minimize the damage a wildfire may have on your own home and property as best as you can as well as your potential for starting them. Here’s some of the better tips gleaned from Ready.gov on the topic:
- Regularly clean roof and gutters.
- Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year.
- Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
- Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc. Move them outside of your defensible space.
- Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.
- Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
- Create a 30 to 100 foot safety zone around your home. Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet.
There are plenty more suggestions you should take the time to read at Ready.gov too. The above is just a small list.
Steps you can take during a wildfire
There’s plenty you can do to minimize the potential for a wildfire to affect your home if there is one nearby. Of course, it should go without saying that your first priority should be to evacuate. That said, if there’s time and you and your family are NOT in danger then consider the following, as taken directly from Ready.gov:
- Close outside attic, eaves and basement vents, windows, doors, pet doors, etc. Remove flammable drapes and curtains. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat.
- Close all doors inside the house to prevent draft. Open the damper on your fireplace, but close the fireplace screen.
- Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source.
- Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near above-ground fuel tanks. Leave sprinklers on and dowsing these structures as long as possible. Be mindful of water use restrictions for areas affected by wildfires.
- Move flammable furniture into the center of the residence away from the windows and sliding-glass doors.
Again, these are just a few of the more important tips I choose to include but there are certainly many more. Please take the time to look at all the advice given by Ready.gov, Firewise.org, and others. Please be safe and always have fire safety in mind.
This post was originally found at reThinkSurvival.com: 12 Wildfire Safety and Prevention Tips You Should Know