Last summer in British Columbia alone, 190 homes and nearly 250 other buildings were completely destroyed by wildfires.
To reduce losses like this in the future, there are a few things you can do to make your home safer if a wildfire strikes. Some of them are simply obvious – like not keeping a stack of firewood on your deck – but others might not be so self-evident. Damage from fires can come from embers that land on your roof, from extreme heat from fires nearby and from direct flames. Here are five things recommended by FireSmart Canada to reduce the risk to your house.
- Protect your yard and surrounding area. Mark out an area that is about 10 metres around your home and clear it of combustible material. Changes made to your house and to the area immediately around your house are the most beneficial to reducing risk from fires. Burnable debris like needles and leaves can build up in gutters and under decks but removing it on a regular basis will reduce risk. Consider screening gutters, eaves and vents to prevent any buildup.
- Renovate in a fire smart way. For example, replace a roof or siding with fireproof material – this will protect it from sparks and embers. Double pained windows and fire-rated doors will help guard against heat from nearby fires. Put in a metal gate between a wooden fence and your home to help stop a fire from spreading. If you have a shed within 10 meters of your home, it should also be fireproofed.
- Get fire-resistant plants and avoid using bark or pine needle mulch. Avoid these highly burnable plants to reduce risk: cedar, juniper, pine, tall grass and spruce. Trees that are more fire-resistant include poplar, birch, maple, ash and cherry. Mow your lawn regularly, since long grass can spread a fire. Clean up dry leaves, twigs and branches as often as possible. Cedar hedges are burnable, so create a break between a hedge and the house.
- Make sure there are no overhanging tree branches near your home or the power lines coming into your home. Trees in your yard should be at least three meters apart and should be trimmed at least two meters from the ground up to avoid a fire spreading from the ground to the tree tops. Remove smaller trees that can spread fires from the ground to the taller trees. Regularly clean up the dry tree debris on the ground.
- Plan ahead. Even with careful fireproofing, it can be necessary to leave home in a fire. Firesmartcanada.ca has preparation checklists and evacuation plans that will help in the event of an emergency. The site will help with getting ready to evacuate (what to bring, who to call, etc.) and it can assist in assessing a home’s fire risk.
Source: FireSmart Homeowners’ Manual