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PREPARING FOR WILDFIRES
  • PREPARE FOR WILDFIRES: PROTECT YOUR HOME

     

    As a homeowner, you are not powerless in your defense against wildfires. By taking a proactive approach to wildfire prevention, you can significantly increase your safety and your home’s likelihood of survival during a catastrophic wildfire event. 
     
    The actions you take to mitigate the risk on your property before a fire occurs can make all the difference. Follow the guidelines below to ensure that your home has the best chance of surviving a wildfire.
     
     
    HOMES BUILT IN DENSE VEGETATION WITH WILDFIRE QUICKLY APPROACHING
     

     + Create Defensible Space with Firewise Landscaping

    The idea of Firewise landscaping (PDF, 13MB) is to create a separation between fuels a fire needs to continue burning. Fuels include trees surrounding your property, plants used in landscaping and even your home itself.

    A healthy, well-maintained landscape is important to the survival of homes during a wildfire. Here are a few tips to make your landscape Firewise. 

    BURNT GRASS LEADING UP TO NON-COMBUSTIBLE LANDSCAPING

    Within 30 feet of your home and its attachments:

    Make sure plants are carefully spaced, low growing and free of resins, oils and waxes that burn easily.
    • Mow your lawn regularly.
    • Prune trees 6–10 feet from the ground.
    • Create a spacing of 30 feet between tree crowns.
    • Create a ‘fire-free’ area within 5 feet of your home, using non-flammable landscaping materials.
    • Remove dead vegetation from under the deck and within 10 feet of the house.
    • Water plants, trees and mulch regularly.
    • Consider xeriscaping if you are affected by water restrictions. 

    30 – 100 feet from your home:

    • Leave 30 feet between clusters of two to three trees, or 20 feet between individual trees.
    • Plant a mixture of deciduous trees, such as oaks and maples, and coniferous trees, like pines.
    • Create fuel breaks like driveways and gravel walkways.
    • Prune trees up 6–10 feet from the ground.

    100 – 200 feet from your home:

    • Remove smaller conifers that are growing between taller trees.
    • Remove heavy accumulations of woody debris.
    • Reduce the density of tall trees so canopies do not touch.
    The goal of Firewise landscaping is to lower the intensity of a wildfire as it approaches your home. Vegetation that encourages wildlife and enhances water or energy conservation goals can be part of a Firewise landscape as long as defensible space is maintained. 
    For more information check out our brochure on Firewise Landscaping in Texas (PDF, 13MB) or our Ready, Set, GO! Action Guide.
     + Hardening Your Home with Fire Resistant Material

    Hardening a home describes the process of reducing a home’s risk to wildfire by using non-combustible building materials, keeping the area around your home free of debris and taking steps to prevent embers from entering the home.

    The materials you use to construct your home can determine whether your home will survive a wildfire. While you may not be able to accomplish all the measures listed below, each will increase your home’s chance of survival. Here are a few tips for fire resistant home construction (PDF, 2MB).

    TWO HOUSES SURROUNDED BY ASHES FROM A WILDFIRE. ONE HOME IS BURNT DOWN, WHILE THE OTHER REMAINS STANDING

    Roof and Gutters

    • Use fire-resistant roofing material such as metal, tile or Class A shingles.
    • Inspect for gaps in roofing that can expose roof decking or supports.
    • Install metal gutters and gutter guards to keep debris from accumulating.
    • Place angle flashing over openings between the roof decking and fascia board.

    Eaves and Soffits

    • Enclose or box-in eaves with non-combustible materials such as metal, cement board or stucco.
    • Install a metal screen behind roof vents.

    Exterior Walls

    • Select heat and fire-resistant siding such as metal, brick, block, stone, cement board or fire retardant treated lumber. 
    • Make sure there are no crevices or holes that could catch embers.

    Windows

    • Install double-paned or tempered-glass windows.
    • Use metal framing or aluminum coverings for wood or vinyl.
    • Use a fiberglass or metal screen.
    • Use drapes and shutters that are fire resistant to help reduce the likelihood of fire spread.

    Vents

    • Install 1/8-inch metal screening behind vents.
    • Clean vents to keep them free of debris, allowing them to keep embers out while allowing air flow for ventilation.

    Decks, Fencing and Skirting

    • Spread gravel or other non-combustible material under the deck.
    • Screen in the bottom of the deck with metal 1/8-inch screening.
    • Separate wooden fences from the house with a stone or metal barrier.
    • Use a non-combustible material for skirting around the foundation 
     
    Embers (PDF, 1MB) pose the greatest threat to a home. These fiery little pieces of wood shoot off from the main fire and get carried to other areas by fast-moving air currents. A high-intensity fire can produce a virtual blizzard of embers. Some can travel more than a mile before landing. They can get into the smallest places and easily start a fire that can burn down an entire home. 
     
    For more information check out our brochure Fire Resistant Materials (PDF, 2MB) and Be Embers Aware (PDF, 1MB).
     
     + Improving Access for Emergency Responders
    A quick response to a wildfire is critical for saving your home. Firefighting personnel must be able to quickly locate and safely travel to your home. Emergency responders may not be familiar with your community, so highly visible signs are important to help them find their way. 
    You must also remember that fire trucks are larger and heavier than normal vehicles, it is essential that all access lanes are wide enough, have proper clearance and can support the weight of fire vehicles. Here are a few tips to help improve access to your property: 

    Street Signs

    • At least 3-inches tall
    • Words on a contrasting color background
    • Made of reflective material
    • Made of fire resistant material
    • Visible from both directions

    Addresses

    • Streets should be labeled, having different names and numbers.
    • Your home should have its own house number and be in numerical order along your street.
    • If your home is set back from the street, post your address at the end of your driveway where it is visible from the street.
    • If multiple homes share a single driveway, post all addresses at the entrance from the street and at each appropriate intersection along the driveway.

    Roads

    • Single lane one-way roads should have turnout spaces at regular intervals to allow emergency vehicles access and cars to pass.
    • Plan roads to allow for safe evacuation and firefighter access.
    • Design a minimum of two primary roads in every development.
    • Public and private streets should be a minimum of 10 feet wide, in order to allow two traffic lanes.
    • Curves and intersections should be wide enough for large fire equipment to easily pass and turn.
    • Streets and bridges should be built to withstand at least 40,000 pounds
    • Roads and driveways must not be too steep or have sharp curves. 
    • Dead end streets and long driveways should have a turnaround area designed as a T or circle large enough to allow emergency equipment to turn around.
    Whether you live in a community with poorly labeled streets or at the end of a long dead end road, making sure emergency personnel can quickly locate and get to your home can increase your home’s chance of survival during a wildfire.
     
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