Your first as well as most effective defense against wildfire is to create a fire safe landscape of at least 30-to-100 feet perimeter around your home. You can do this by removing flammable vegetation, spacing trees and shrubs at least 10 feet apart, clearing away dead leaves on your roof, as well as your rain gutters, and dry brush around your home.
In addition to creating a defensible space, you may want to consider the plants and trees in your garden as a type of fire defense. Junipers and eucalyptus trees, commonly used around homes, are extremely flammable. On the other hand, rose geraniums, ice plants and white rockrose withstood high temperatures for prolonged periods without igniting.
Check with your fire department or local nursery to determine which fire-resistive plants are adapted to the climate in your area. In general, fire-resistive plants grow close to the ground, have a low sap or resin content, grow without accumulating dead branches, needles or leaves and are easily maintained and pruned.
Steps You Can Take To Be Fire Safe
If a fire does threaten your home, the first few minutes are the most critical for saving it. The following steps give firefighters a better chance of finding and protecting your home.
- Ensure that street signs and home address are clearly visible.
- Be sure that the road access can accommodate large emergency vehicles. All roads should have turnaround areas large enough for fire equipment.
- If you have a swimming pool, be prepared to use it as a fire-fighting tool by purchasing and learning how to use a pool pump.
Your roof is the most vulnerable part of your house because it can easily catch fire from the wind-blown sparks of a wildfire. Build or re-roof with fire resistive or noncombustible materials. Your local fire department can provide specific roofing guidelines in your area.
In addition to ensuring that the outside of your home is fire safe, it’s important to take steps inside as well. More than 50 percent of fatal residential fires occur at night when people are sleeping. Smoke detectors have saved many lives, and could save yours. Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and position them on the ceiling just outside each bedroom.
Also, plan and practice an escape route with all family members. Fire can spread very rapidly. Even with an early warning from smoke detectors, escaping a fire can be difficult. The following steps can help you plan your escape:
- Draw a floor plan of your home and mark all possible escape routes.
- Prepare a list of valuables to take with you in an emergency.
- Remind everyone to close doors behind them as they evacuate the house to slow down the spread of fire, smoke and heat.
- Decide on an outside meeting place to gather your family together and to make sure everyone is out and accounted for.
- Conduct regular home fire drills. You may be blinded or hampered by smoke, so try practicing your escape plan with your eyes closed.
Be on the lookout for anything that could start a fire.
Watch out for:
- Matches and lighters
- Old and worn-out electrical cords
- Too many cords in a wall socket
- Candles burning in an empty room
- Clothes and blankets near space heaters and on hot lamps
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