How to prepare for wildfires: A guide to protect your home and family

Mon Sep 18 2023

Smoke rising through trees from a wildfire near a neighborhood

Wildfires can be unpredictable and destructive, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake. Every year, millions of people are affected by wildfires, and it's essential to take proactive measures to prepare your home and family.

In this article, we discuss how to prepare for wildfires and why it's crucial to be ready. We also offer tips for both preventing and staying safe during a wildfire.

How to prepare for wildfires

Wildfires are a real threat across the United States, with millions of homes in high-risk areas. Reducing the risk of a wildfire is essential to protecting your property and neighborhood. By working together, residents can make their community and properties much safer.

Here are some simple steps on how to prepare for a wildfire to ensure your home has better odds of surviving

Create a defensive zone

A good rule of thumb is that anything that can catch fire should be kept away from your house, deck, or porch. In fact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends having 30 feet of defensible space around your home.  In part, that means: 

  • Moving vegetation and other flammable materials out to the perimeter of your property.

  • Installing pavers, concrete, or other noncombustible materials near your home.

  • Removing dead plants, weeds, and grass from your yard.

  • Cutting back limbs so they don’t hang over your roof.

  • Keeping your gutters, eaves, porches, and decks free of leaves and other debris.

It’s a simple precaution, but it can go a long way towards keeping your home safe from unpredictable and potentially devastating wildfires.

Prepare your yard

Keeping your yard in tip-top shape isn't just about aesthetics – it's also a critical step to prevent wildfires. Pruning your trees so their lowest branches are 10 feet from the ground can be a game changer in stopping fires from spreading to treetops. While you’re at it, don't neglect your lawn. Keeping it hydrated and well-maintained is a must. Remember, a little bit of yard work now can make a big difference during wildfire season.

Establish an emergency plan

To ensure your family's safety during a wildfire, it's crucial to have a disaster preparedness plan in place. This includes collecting the items you need to survive before a wildfire approaches. Put together an emergency supply kit with food, water, medicine, a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, personal documents, and important contacts and store it in a safe spot. 

Next, develop an emergency evacuation plan and practice it with everyone in your household. You can learn more about emergency preparedness planning from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Familiarize yourself with local regulations

You can contact your local planning/zoning office to find out if your home is in a high wildfire-risk area and if there are specific local or county ordinances you should follow. 

Talking to your local fire department about how to prepare and when to evacuate is vital to wildfire safety. 

Learn emergency skills

Having emergency skills in a wildfire can be essential for staying safe and minimizing damage. Wildfires can cause power, gas, and water outages, leaving people without essential utilities. Learning first aid and CPR can help individuals respond to injuries or health issues that may arise during or after a wildfire. 

Why wildfire preparedness is important

Wildfires can become uncontrollable and spread rapidly, fueled by dry brush, high winds, and other factors. They can easily ignite homes and other structures, putting people's lives at risk.  According to the Washington Post, nearly 80 million Americans already live in locations with significant fire risk, and more people are moving to these areas all the time. What might make matters worse is that climate change also threatens to increase the frequency and severity of wildfires.

In addition to the direct impact on homes and properties, wildfires can have serious health consequences, especially for those vulnerable to respiratory issues. Knowing the evacuation routes, staying informed about the latest developments, and following the direction of local officials can help ensure that you and your family stay safe during a wildfire.

Long story short? Wildfire preparedness is crucial for keeping you, your loved ones, and your home safe.

How to prevent wildfires

One of the most shocking facts about wildfires is that human activity is responsible for almost 85% of wildfires in the US. But that statistic also tells us that we can do a lot to reduce everyone’s chance of experiencing wildfire. 

Here are three wildfire prevention tips to ensure your community’s safety:

Check weather conditions 

Be sure to check weather and drought conditions before taking part in any activities that involve fire or sparks, such as:

  • Lighting fireworks.

  • Burning debris.

  • Starting campfires.

  • Using firepits.

If it's hot, dry, and windy, avoid those activities and opt for an alternative. 

Learn how to build and douse a campfire

Even if you’re an expert in the wilderness, it never hurts to brush up on what should you do before starting a fire. The best place – assuming weather conditions are good – is in an existing fire ring. However, if you’re not in a designated campground and you need to start a campfire, be sure to do it in a ring of rocks. Select a flat, open location away from flammable materials, scrape away grass and debris, and cut the wood into short lengths. Remember to always stay with your fire and extinguish it thoroughly before leaving.

To put out your campfire, follow these steps:

  1. Drown the fire with water.

  2. Scrape partially burned sticks to remove embers.

  3. Mix the ashes and embers in soil.

  4. Add another bucket of water and stir to make sure everything is wet.

  5. Check if the ashes and embers are cool to the touch.

  6. Dump another bucket of water on the remaining ashes and embers.

  7. Scan the area for embers and douse those with water.

That sounds like a lot of steps, but making sure that your campfire is completely out is an important part of minimizing wildfires.

Check your trailer's tires, bearings, and axles before towing

Before towing, check your trailer for any dragging chains that can create sparks that could ignite dry grass on the side of the road. Ensure all chains are adequately secured, and avoid driving through dry grass or brush if possible. 

You may also want to carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle. If you do, be sure to: 

  • Get one that’s rated by the NFPA for Class B and Class C fires.

  • Keep it tied down in your trunk when it’s not in use.

  • Check it regularly to confirm it’s in good working condition. 

While you’re at it, check your trailer and ensure it’s in good repair. This can go a long way in preventing wildfires caused by towing accidents.

Wildfire safety tips

So far, we’ve discussed how to protect your home and family from wildfires and how to prevent wildfires. But what should you do if a wildfire comes to your area? These wildfire safety tips can help.

Stay connected

As the wildfire approaches, you need to stay connected with your local government for the latest updates on evacuation orders. You may want to keep a spare battery or portable charger for your cell phone and signup for free emergency alerts from your local government. Another option is to get a hand-cranked radio that allows you to hear alerts when utilities are out.

Protect your home

First, close all windows, vents, and doors to prevent embers from entering your home. This may include covering your home's vents with duct tape, pre-cut plywood, or commercial vent covers to help prevent ember penetration.

Next, turn off any gas or oil supplies at the source. If you have flammable items outside your home, move them inside or as far away from your home as possible. Park your car in the garage or facing the direction of the evacuation route with the windows and doors closed. You want to stay inside if it’s safe, but you may need to leave if smoke levels are too high.

Finally, fill large tubs and containers with water. Firefighters can use these to put out spot fires.

Wait to be notified before you go home

Do not return to your home after a wildfire has been extinguished until you receive official notification that it's safe to do so. The area may still be unsafe and contain hidden dangers. Not only can there be fallen power lines, poles, and wires, but wildfires often contaminate drinking water sources with ash, debris, and chemicals. In the meantime, you can use bottled water or boil tap water for at least one minute before drinking it or using it for cooking or brushing your teeth.

Cleaning up 

If you want to clean up after a wildfire, you want to follow basic safety measures to protect yourself. For example, you should: 

  • Wear protective clothing, including gloves, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and heavy shoes. 

  • Use goggles and N95 respirators can help reduce the amount of ash you breathe in. 

You also want to dispose of ash safely by placing it in plastic bags, sealing them tightly, and disposing of them properly. Do not use leaf blowers or equipment that can stir up dust while cleaning.

Protect your home with Kin Insurance

Wildfires are a serious threat. Knowing how to prepare for wildfires can help protect your home and family. Being prepared is vital to staying safe and minimizing the risk of damage to your home. 

At Kin Insurance, we offer wildfire insurance on all our insurance policies to help protect your property in the event of a wildfire. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you stay protected.


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