Prevent Fires During Hot Summer Months

firex.jpgIt’s finally starting to heat up and summer is right around the corner. USA Today reports that wildfires are a clear and present danger in hot spots around the US. Although we may not be able to escape all of them, we can do everything we can to protect our property and do our best to safeguard against hot areas, and make sure we have a plan to prepare for the worst.

FEMA provides some good pointers.

Practice Wildfire Safety

  • Contact your local fire department, health department, or forestry office for information on fire laws.
  • Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your name and address.
  • Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
  • Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
  • Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
  • Ensure adequate accessibility by large fire vehicles to your property.
  • Plan several escape routes away from your home – by car and by foot.
  • Talk
    to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood
    could work together after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors’
    skills such as medical or technical. Consider how you could help
    neighbors who have special needs such as elderly or disabled persons.
    Make plans to take care of children who may be on their own if parents
    can’t get home.

Create a 30- to 100-foot safety zone around your home

Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to
flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a
minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope,
standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire
department or forestry office for additional information.

  • Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from powerlines.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear
    a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen
    over the grill – use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than
    one-quarter inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days; then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store
    gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety
    cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack
    firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear
    combustible material within 20 feet. Use only wood-burning devices
    evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters
    Laboratories (UL).
  • Review your homeowner’s insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home’s contents.

Protect your home

  • Regularly clean roof and gutters.
  • Inspect chimneys
    at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the
    dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a
    spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection
    Association Standard 211. (Contact your local fire department for exact
    specifications.)
  • Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches,
    decks, floor areas, and the home itself. Also, screen openings to
    floors, roof and attic.
  • Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on
    each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and
    change the batteries at least once each year.
  • Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it’s kept.
  • Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.

Plan your water needs

  • Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.
  • Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
  • Install
    freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home
    and near other structures on the property. Install additional outlets
    at least 50 feet from the home.
  • Consider obtaining a portable gasoline powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.

For more information, download their Wildfire Preparedness PDF here.