How to Prepare Against Wildfires

As temperatures begin to rise, the ground begins to dry out and wildfire's become a risk across the country.

Below, we've listed some items that you should take into consideration before the wildfire season is upon us in order to prepare your house and home for an emergency.

What to do before a wildfire
There are ways that you can prepare your home before a wildfire to ensure that you are not putting you and your family at undue risk.

WildfireCreate a safe zone around your home. Be vigilant about clearing dead plants, trash and other debris from your yard. They can contribute to fire spreading. This would include removing vines and other vegetation from the side of your home. Make sure that no tree branches or shrubbery is within 15 feet of your chimneys and stovepipes.

Use fire-resistant siding. Homes that are sided with stucco, metal, brick, cement, or rocks are less vulnerable than homes of wood. If you do have a wood home, you can treat it with fire retardant chemicals. These chemicals will need to be applied on a regular basis.

Prepare vents and chimneys. You’ll want to cover vents with mesh wiring to ensure that no debris get inside and dry out. You can also install spark catchers to ensure that sparks from your chimney do not leave your home and light nearby trees or your roof on fire.

Have an emergency plan. Your family should know where to meet outside the home if the house starts on fire. Be sure to practice this plan at least two times a year.

Location. If you are building a new home or remodeling, there are many things you can do to determine that your home is safe from fires. Many times wildfires spread quickly uphill - avoid building on hill sides.

Roofing. Avoid roofing material that is made of wood or other combustible material. You can choose fire-retardant materials like fiberglass, metal, clay and more. You’ll also want to make sure that your gutters are cleaned out on a regular basis.

Decks. If your home isn’t made of wood, many times your deck is! Be sure to treat your deck with chemicals that will dispel fire. You’ll also want to make sure that your deck is cleared off of trash, leaves and other fire starting material. Especially make sure it’s clear during the warmer seasons.

What to do during a wildfire
If a wildfire is fast approaching your home, there are certain things you can do to make sure that your home is as defended as possible. However, remember that these steps do not ensure that your house will not catch on fire.

Have an evacuation kit. In previous posts we’ve covered the importance of having a grab and go back in which you can have emergency water, food and documents that you’ll need. This will help you be prepared at a moment’s notice to leave your home - especially if there is a mandatory evacuation in place.

Shut off natural gas, propane or fuel supplies.

Close openings in your home. You’ll want to make sure that there is minimal draft in your home. Do not leave doors or windows open. Close them to ensure that small sparks do not come inside the home and light up. You’ll also want to close your chimney and ventilation shafts.

Clear your defensive area. Be sure that your 30-foot area around your home is clear of all debris or flammable material. If you can, you can move things like wood piles or vegetation farther away from the home.

Evacuation. You should prepare to evacuate just in case. Make sure that your car is packed with your kits, documents and other materials that you’ll need. Make sure your kids and pets are ready to go too. If you evacuate your home, turn on a light in every room so that firefighters from outside the home can spot smoke inside. Leave doors unlocked but closed.

What to do after a wildfire
Check the roof. After a fire has passed, make sure that your roof does not have any sparks or embers on it. You don’t want to have a fire start up after the wildfire has passed.

If you have a fire, get help. Be sure to get help if your house does have a fire. You’ll need help to contain and extinguish the fire as much as possible. This is probably a good reason to be a good friend and neighbor.

Check for sparks for hours. For the next 5 hours after a wildfire, you should regularly check each room in  your home, near windows and doors. You should also check outdoor shrubbery and flammable material to ensure that no sparks are existing.

8 thoughts on “How to Prepare Against Wildfires”

  • Lynn H.

    We were in church one Sunday and a man came running in and said either our son's trailer or ours was on fire (we live in a mobile home community). Sinking feeling. We zoomed home to find out it was the mobile home behind ours that was burned totally. It had already started in our direction, and let me tell you that a water hose is almost about as much use as pissing on it. I know it beats nothing but..... we have food storage and camping supplies to go but having to leave 38 + years of family and marriage behind us was really sad.

    SANDRA SHANTZ April 2, 2012 at 2:48 am


  • Pat Sheek

    We live in a community in the country which is heavily wooded with no fire hydrants and has only one main road for 6 miles to get in or out. I have always feared a fire because we live 30 minutes from town and I wouldn't want to risk getting caught in my car with smoke on a winding road. I've always wondered if I wouldn't be safer to stay inside my home which is hardy plank with a metal roof and no fireplace. Hope I never have to find out.

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  • Patrick Stranad
    Patrick Stranad August 8, 2015 at 12:49 am

    I am a Fire Department Fire Marshal. To start with all these recommendations in this article are a good starting point. I also am a Deputy Disaster and Emergency Coordinator for Glacier County in Montana. To add to your planning for such an event check with your local DES and American Red Cross as to where you may be sheltered in the event you need to evacuate. A great deal of unrest and confusion can be put to rest if you have an idea where you may be going. In many instances Law Enforcement hasn't been given all the information just an order to get to residents of an area that may be effected. Another prep point for the home is to remove all flammable material from window areas. The radiant heat through glass is intense. As I said all the other preps are good. Start today making an assessment of your home and property. Clean up around the house. If you use wood for heating, move the wood storage away from the home. I am currently on a two day off from the Reynolds Fire in Glacier National Park. Be ready today for tomorrow.

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