After one of the hottest and driest winters and summers on record, many communities across the country are experiencing increased risk for wildfires. This year has demonstrated the trend that wildfires are burning larger than ever, and the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Firewise Communities Program is urging homeowners to take action to reduce the risk of losing their homes and property to wildfires.
Neighborhoods across the country such as those in Colorado, Tennessee, and Oregon, have seen firsthand the devastating effects of this force of nature. However, as residents who have been displaced by these events consider what to do next, many of these communities are demonstrating support for one another as they move forward and recover from similar circumstances.
September 2012 marks the first anniversary of the most destructive wildfire in Texas history. The Bastrop County Complex Fire destroyed more than 1,600 homes before it was extinguished in October 2011. While this record-breaking wildfire left lasting effects on the state, the Steiner Ranch neighborhood is a shining example of resilience and progress, as residents have come together to start anew -- rebuilding using Firewise guidelines for home construction and landscape design and maintenance. This included taking part in a community fuel reduction day in which flammable brush and debris were removed and adequate space between trees and homes was created.
As September is National Preparedness Month, now is the time for millions of residents across the country to prepare themselves and protect their homes from the continued risk of wildfire. Contrary to common perception, a wildfire does not have to burn everything in its path. In fact, clearing property of debris and maintaining landscaping are important, yet simple, first steps for homeowners.
With nearly 800 recognized communities, NFPA's Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program continues to spread the word on how people can make instant and long-term changes to protect their homes and property against wildfire.
Below are actions residents can take to reduce the risk of home and property becoming fuel for a wildfire -- actions that have saved communities such as Cedar Heights in Colorado Springs earlier this year.
- Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
- Keep lawns hydrated and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
- Remove flammable materials within 3-5 feet of the home's foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don't let it touch the house, deck or porch.
- Limit vegetation surrounding the home's perimeter, at least 30-100 feet, depending on the area's wildfire risk. The Firewise Guide to Landscaping can help distinguish the best vegetation based on distance to the home or structure. Firewise landscaping and plants list also are available on the Firewise website.
A comprehensive Firewise tips checklist for homeowners is available on the Firewise Web site.
Those interested in making a lasting change to their home can consider a Firewise construction approach, which means building with less-flammable materials for homes, decks, porches and fences. This includes using Class-A roofing materials such as asphalt shingles and metal, cement and concrete products. Double-paned or tempered glass windows also make a home more resistant to heat and flames.
Learn more about how to keep families safe and reduce homeowners' risk for wildfire damage at www.Firewise.org. Additionally, complimentary brochures, booklets, pamphlets, videos and much more can be found on the information and resources page of the website and ordered online through the Firewise catalog.