How can I protect my house from wildfires?

While wildfires are most common in dry conditions, they can occur any time. Because of the unpredictable nature of wildfires, having a plan in place is an important aspect of home wildfire protection. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, consider periodically reviewing your wildfire preparedness checklist. Make sure everyone knows what to do during a wildfire, including where to go and what to bring if you need to evacuate suddenly.

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Wildfire home protection tips

Emergency services will fight the wildfire itself. In a wildfire, you should prepare your home from becoming a wildfire risk. FEMA points out some ways to prepare the exterior of your home ahead of time for a wildfire to make it less susceptible when one breaks out, including:

  • Reinforce your roof and wall coverings: Look into installing or replacing your roof with Class A-rated roof and non-combustible coverings. You may also want to replace any eaves and attic vents that could catch embers with short overhangs and flat ledges.
  • Fill in the gaps: Seal any gaps that may have been made when utility companies install new wires and/or hardware on your home. Use fire-resistant caulk or mortar. You can also use fire-expanding foams and sealants to reinforce any susceptible areas.
  • Make some room: Remove any plants or landscaping near your home that could easily catch fire. Instead, install a 30-foot defensible space filled with non-combustible materials, such as gravel. Remember to keep your foundation and gutters clear of any organic material that could easily catch fire.
  • Protect large windows: You can choose multi-paneled windows with tempered safety glass if you're installing new windows, or select fireproof shutters that you can close if the threat of a wildfire is nearby.

Pro tip:

Be sure your house numbers are clearly visible from the street. Consider how the front of your home looks now vs. how it would appear in the dense haze of a wildfire. Choose highly visible, bold-faced numerals over ornate, decorative designs.

What is home hardening?

Home hardening refers to using materials to "harden" the exterior of your home, such as using flame-resistant screens on chimney vents, using composite wood on decks and surrounding structures, and more.

Prepare yourself and your family

Be sure to make an emergency evacuation plan and review it frequently with your family members. Know the available routes away from your home, and pack a go-bag with everything from a standard home emergency kit. Have a plan on what to do with your pets in an emergency, and be sure that your pets are part of your evacuation plan. Be sure to review your homeowners insurance policy periodically to stay up to date on if your homeowners insurance policy covers damage from wildfires.

What to do during a wildfire

Wildfires can be frightening, and it can be challenging to remember what to do. Try to stay calm and remember your plan of action. When you get the news of a wildfire, consult your home wildfire protection and evacuation plan, which should include the following steps:

  • Take all evacuation orders seriously. If an order is issued, leave as soon as possible.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants, boots, goggles, and a face cover.
  • Grab your go-bag with your home emergency kit.
  • Use extreme caution when driving around areas affected by wildfire.

What to do after a wildfire

While it’s tempting to go home as soon as possible to check on your belongings and property, patience is the best strategy after a wildfire. Find a place to stay until you’re sure it’s safe to go home. When you get back to the house, be cautious and check the property thoroughly before you settle back in.

Wait until officials say it’s safe to return home after the catastrophic event. Remain watchful of potential hotspots in your yard or home. Hot spots may still exist and can flare up without warning. If you still smell smoke, alert authorities and leave the property.


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