Being Prepared for a Wildfire Can Save Your Life and Home
I’m Ed Smith, a Northern California wildfire attorney. Once again, California is besieged by wildfires capable of taking life and destroying property. For those in harm’s way, being prepared can often make an enormous difference. Granted, taking steps to secure your home or business and making sure that you are ready to face the ordeal of evacuation doesn’t mean that your home will be spared or that your life won’t be turned upside down. What preparedness will give you is peace of mind and a better chance of surviving the fire’s wrath. Let’s take a look at the impact of a wildfire, what steps you can take to stay alert to its progress and what you can do to lessen the trauma of a necessary evacuation.
The impact of wildfires is vast and destroys not only homes, commercial structures, and people’s lives but also the environment by damaging watersheds. By destroying the land, mudslides become more frequent as does flash flooding.
Services that communities depend on such as communications, utilities, and others can be interrupted with dangerous consequences. Structures outside the fire’s direct path can be damaged if embers carried by high winds land on the roof or on vegetation near the building. Residents who live in a fire zone and even those at a considerable distance can be harmed by smoke inhalation.
Getting Ready for Wildfire Season
Wildfires are seasonal, and they occur more often during dry periods with windy conditions. The fires also rely on fuel to gain momentum, and this is best provided when there is an abundance of dried out vegetation. There are things you can do around your home in preparation for wildfire season:
- Rid the area within five to 30 feet of your house of flammable materials. This includes propane tanks, furniture, leaves and woody plants. Keep plants and shrubs maintained. Remove any dead tree limbs and dead vegetation. Prune tree limbs eight feet from the ground. If an electrical wire is near a tree limb you are about to trim, call an expert to help.
- Check to see if roofing materials are fire-resistant. Use Class-A fire-resistant materials. Keep the roof free of debris. The debris such as pine needles and small branches that collect on the roof and in gutters can be ignited by flying embers. Prune back any tree branches that hang over the roof and chimney. This is an easy path for flames to enter the home. Install clean spark arrestors every six months.
- Within five feet of your house, use gravel, concrete or brick. This creates a defensible zone around the home.
- Cover vents and open eaves with mesh to keep out embers.
- Use only materials that conform to state requirements for any new construction when building a deck. Make sure all combustible items are removed from under the deck.
- Windows should be double-paned and made of tempered glass. If a wildfire begins, make sure the windows are closed but not locked.
- All fences and gates should be made of non-flammable materials.
- Keep sheds and RVs away from the house. If that is not possible, make sure there is a defensible area between them and the house.
- Remove firewood from around the house to an area at least 30 feet away.
- Ensure that flammable materials are stored in recommended containers.
- Learn what emergency notifications mean. To help, you can install the FEMA app on your cell phone. This app gives you up-to-date weather alerts.
Be Prepared to Leave
Being prepared to leave on short notice will take some of the trauma out of the situation. Here are a few tips:
- Gather important papers you will want to have with you. This includes birth certificates, passports, insurance policies and other documents. Have them in one place in a fireproof envelope so you can grab them quickly. Store copies at a location outside the home such as in a safe deposit box or another family member, if possible.
- Check your insurance coverage before a fire hits. Make sure your insurance is upgraded to include newer acquisitions. Take a video of your possessions at least every year. Keep a copy of the video on a flash drive with your insurance policy.
- Buy masks for when the smoke gets heavy. Make sure they are classified N95. Simple surgical masks will not work.
- Have a family meeting about fire preparedness. Make plans to meet at a specific spot should evacuation become necessary. Have family drills to practice ahead of a wildfire. It might save lives should a fire threaten your home.
- Keep radio batteries fresh, or purchase a hand-cranked radio. Have extra batteries available for flashlights, and make sure all devices are in working order. Know where the weather station is on your radio for updates on conditions and emergency alerts.
- Look at possible evacuation routes if a fire starts. Use a paper map or your phone. Store a copy of the paper map in a safe place in a non-flammable pouch in the glove compartment.
- Have a disaster kit for your home and vehicles. This should include first aid supplies, blankets, canned food, water and a can opener.
Top Things to Do When a Wildfire Starts
There are steps you can take once a wildfire is approaching your area:
- If water is available along with a hose, wet down your roof and the area around your house.
- Turn a light on in your rooms. This helps you and firefighters see when smoke arrives.
- Close blinds and push apart or remove drapes. Close the windows but don’t lock them.
- Push furniture toward the center of the room.
- Turn off fans and air conditioners that circulate the air.
- Secure pets so they are ready to be evacuated.
- Turn off electrical entrances to the garage.
- Turn off the gas coming into your home.
Northern California Wildfire Attorney
I’m Ed Smith, a Northern California wildfire attorney. Being prepared for a wildfire is one way to reduce the trauma of leaving your home and is crucial in saving your life. If you need help after the crisis is over, reach out to me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice. You can reach me online if you wish.
I belong to the Million Dollar Advocates. This is a forum of trial lawyers who have won in excess of $1 million for a client.
I believe that you need to know all you can about an attorney before you hire them. Learn about my practice on the following pages:
Photo Attribution: https://pixabay.com/en/fire-fire-fighters-fire-department-165575/
:cd ds [cs 1156] cv