Tips for Homeowners to Prepare Homes During Wildfire Season

This week, Colorado has been experiencing extensive wildfire activity that has scorched more than 12,000 acres, destroyed close to a hundred homes and evacuated thousands. Wildfire safety experts from the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Firewise® Communities Program and the International Association of Fire Chiefs' (IAFC) Ready, Set, Go! Program encourage residents to prepare their homes for a wildfire, maintain a situational awareness of the fires and evacuate if called to do so.
 
Steps outlined in IAFC's Ready, Set, Go! wildfire readiness program, in partnership with NFPA's Firewise Communities Program, address the three major phases of wildfire safety -- preparation, situational awareness and survival. Important steps include:
 
Ready:  Take personal responsibility and, whenever possible, prepare long before the threat of a wildfire so your home is ready in case of a fire. Create defensible space by clearing dry vegetation such as grass, leaves and branches away from your home. Replace or repair shingles or roof tiles that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration. Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home. Assemble emergency supplies and belongings in a safe spot. Make sure all residents within the home are on the same page, and know planned escape routes.

 
Set:  Get your family and home prepared at the onset of fire in your area. Gather family pets and have them prepared to evacuate. Pack your vehicle with emergency items including medication and personal identification. Stay aware of the latest news from local media and the local fire department for updated information on the fire. Be prepared to evacuate if called to do so.
 
Go:  Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Leave early and stay away until your area has been cleared for return by local officials. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to best maneuver the wildfire and ensures you and your family's safety.
 
Given the current level of wildfire activity in Colorado, residents in high-risk areas should be prepared to be Ready, Set and Go!
 
Available Wildfire Experts:
Molly Mowery, NFPA senior project manager, is responsible for the management of Fire Adapted Communities and international outreach. She also provides technical support on Firewise and related issues to communities, states and other wildfire safety advocates, and presents on planning and development-related topics.

Cathy Prudhomme, NFPA associate project manager, provides technical support for Firewise, Fire Adapted Communities, and wildfire safety educational programs for youth audiences. As a former manger for community preparedness with the Colorado Department of Public Safety and Colorado Springs Fire Department, she focused on Firewise outreach and public education.

Shawn Stokes, IAFC assistant director, National Programs, is responsible for IAFC's direction on wildfire efforts and the Ready, Set, Go! Program. Stokes is also Operations Chief of the Dunn Loring Volunteer Fire Department, and an appointed Commissioner to the Fairfax County, Va., Volunteer Fire Commission.
 
Subject Matter:
Preparing residents to evacuate their home in the event of wildfire
The magnitude of burned homes, property and natural resources in the U.S.
How residents and communities can avoid falling victim
How wildfire spreads and why we must adapt to living with wildfire
Easy steps anyone can take to reduce the chances of wildfire damage
Facts every resident should know about saving their property from wildfire
 
Tips for Colorado Residents to Prepare their Property:
Obey outdoor burning bans. Don't burn trash or debris when conditions are dry or windy.
If camping or hunting, check local restrictions on campfires. Use an approved gas stove as an alternative for heating and cooking. If charcoal grills are permitted, use them only over fire proof surfaces such as asphalt or bare earth.
Dispose of smoking materials properly. Extinguish them in an ashtray. Don't throw them out your window.
Avoid parking and idling in dry grass. Catalytic converters can get hot enough to ignite the grass.
Keep water available when using welding equipment or cutting torches around grass and brush. A five-gallon bucket of water with a tote sack in it could prove valuable if sparks or hot pieces of metal catch nearby grass on fire.
Avoid setting hot chainsaws or other gas-powered equipment in dry grass, which could ignite after coming into contact with hot mufflers.
Remove flammable materials (propane tanks and firewood) within 3-5 feet of the home's foundation. Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, door mats and potted plants in wooden containers either inside the house or as far away from the home, shed and garage as possible. If it can catch fire, don't let it touch the house, deck or porch.
Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
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 are also available on the Firewise website.
 
A comprehensive Firewise tips checklist for homeowners is available.
 
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 NFPA's online wildfire safety catalog.


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