Wildfire is in the news a lot right now. In fact, since late December wildfires in several U.S. states—including Texas, Oklahoma, and California—have burned hundreds of thousands of acres, destroyed hundreds of homes, and killed several people. While the Southeast has been spared so far, conditions over the next few months are expected to be drier than normal, raising the specter of wildfires. The Gulf coast could be especially susceptible due to downed trees and windborne debris left behind by last year’s hurricanes. Ironically, heavy rainfall last year in Arizona has helped set the stage for a devastating and early wildfire season this year due to an unusually large amount of desert vegetation that has now dried out.
Probably because at FLASH we work so closely with firefighters and emergency managers, we always worry about the first responders to wildfire disasters. These brave men and women selflessly put themselves at risk to protect homes and buildings and, of course, save lives. Just a few days ago Steven Burns, a firefighter from Oregon, was critically injured while battling a North Texas wildfire. All of us at FLASH wish him a speedy recovery.
It would be much better for firefighters like Steven if those of us living in susceptible areas did our part to make our homes less vulnerable to wildfire. Fortunately, this isn’t rocket science and doesn’t require a lot of money. You can start by creating a defensible, safety zone around your home. This zone is an area around your home where fuels and vegetation are treated, cleared, or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire toward the structure. The zone also provides firefighters a clear area from which to defend your home should wildfire threaten. Other things you can do include: only planting fire-resistant shrubs and trees; trimming grass on a regular basis; raking leaves and removing all dead plants, trees, and shrubs in the safety zone; cutting back all tree branches that hang over the house or are lower than six to ten feet from the ground; and removing dead branches that extend over the roof. Also, always stack firewood at least 50 feet away from your home.
For more recommendations on protecting your home from wildfire, visit FLASH’s Blueprint for Safety website. Also, learn about Firewise Communities at: http://www.firewise.org.
Credit: Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH)