HOME PROTECTION GUIDE: WILDFIRES
Wildfires are a natural and essential part of a healthy forest’s life cycle, helping to recycle nutrients and allow vegetation to spread and diversify. However, wildfires also pose a threat to both the lives and property of anyone who lives in or near a forested area. On average, more than 100,000 wildfires clear 4 to 5 million acres (1.6 to 2 million hectares) of land in the U.S. every year.
Nearly 85 percent of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by humans. Often, these fires are the result of unattended campfires, the burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining wildfires are typically caused by lightning or other weather events. Whatever the cause, these wildfires can spread to communities and force people to evacuate their homes. While firefighters will do all they can to prevent the spread of a wildfire, their limited manpower and resources may prevent them from defending your home. Although you may not be able to reduce the risk of wildfires occurring in your area, there are measures you can take to reduce the risk of your property being lost to a wildfire. This guide includes methods for reducing the chances that a wildfire will damage or destroy your home.
First Steps Towards Protecting Your Home:
Wildfires are unpredictable, and preparation is key. While specific, preventive action is the primary way to protect your home from the elements, there are some additional, up-front steps to consider:
1. Evaluate your home and vulnerabilities—Every property is different and has its own set of unique risks. As such, it’s critical for homeowners to have a thorough inspection done to better understand the risks specific to their property. Inspections, when completed by a certified professional, can provide valuable insight into your property’s ability to withstand a wildfire.
2. Work with a qualified insurance broker—While wildfires pose a real threat to your property, many of the risks can be addressed through the proper insurance. To get a better understanding of your options, it’s important to meet with a qualified insurance broker. They can provide a review of your unique exposures and the policies available to you.
3. Reach out to your local government—In many cases, your local government can prove invaluable when it comes to protecting your home from the elements. Government websites, public works organizations, utility companies and building departments can all provide expertise and tips on protecting your home. When completing the above steps, it’s critical to take any home protection advice you receive seriously, whether it be securing additional insurance or completing an inspection to help you improve your home’s defenses. Only then can you begin taking steps toward protecting your home from specific wildfire risks.
Considerations for Your Property:
Wildfire risks can vary depending on the location and makeup of your property. While you cannot relocate your home, there are steps you can take to protect your home from wildfires.
Clear the Zones Around Your Home
Wildfires rely on heat and embers moving between fuel sources in order to spread. Accordingly, one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of a wildfire to your home is to provide less fuel for the fire to spread. You can achieve this by creating cleared zones around your home. This entails moving or removing vegetation and other sources of fuel from close proximity to each other in a way that makes it difficult for a fire to reach your home.
Avoid Becoming the Source of a Wildfire:
Large wildfires can be started by a single small accident, and all the preparation to the area around your home will be for naught if your property is the source of a wildfire. Make sure your chimney is up to current building code requirements and includes spark arrestors. Keep burn barrels and fire pits away from buildings and at least 10 feet away from woodpiles and other materials that may catch fire. Burn barrels should also be properly ventilated, covered with a screen and never unattended. Clear vegetation from possible sources of fuel, such as propane tanks and power lines. Keep fire extinguishers, garden hoses, sprinklers, shovels, rakes, axes and other tools on hand that could be used to put out or cut off a small fire before it grows into a wildfire. In the event of a fire at your property, do not hesitate to contact local fire officials.
Wildfire-related risks can affect your home unexpectedly, often leading to major property damage. While you can’t always predict the movement and spread of a wildfire, the proper insurance can go a long way toward protecting your finances. To learn more about the specific policies available to you, it’s important to work with a qualified insurance broker. Contact ERM Insurance Brokers today to learn more.