Throughout history, wildfires have persisted across the United States, threatening people’s lives, homes and other property. Verisk’s 2020 Wildfire Risk Analysis identified 4.8 million U.S. homes at high or extreme risk of wildfire, with more than 2 million in California alone. As droughts and heat waves continue to occur, the risk only becomes greater. There were 4596 more fires in 2021 than there were in 2020, from the period of January 1 to August 16, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This is a critical time to assess your wildfire preparedness as we move into the peak of wildfire season.
People cause as many as 90 percent of U.S. wildland fires, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Research over the past decade has shown that one of the key ways to lower the risk to structures in the path of wildland fires is to reduce the available fuel around a structure.
The goal of your wildfire protection plan should be to prevent fire from coming too close to your home or structure, since once ignited, it can become its own fire source, generating wind-driven embers that could threaten and ignite neighboring properties.
So what are some simple “Do it Yourself” steps to help ensure your property is protected?
Create a defensible space around your home
There are a number of simple weekend projects you can tackle to create a fuel-free space around your home. Together, these measures will help give your property a much better chance of surviving a wildfire.
First, you can install metal screens to keep flying embers from entering your home through attic, roof gable and crawlspace vents. These screens should be 1/8 inch or finer inside all vents and need to be checked periodically for any accumulated debris.
Second, if your home has a deck, you should remove any items that could catch fire, including dead brush and natural waste or stored items. It is best practice to rely only on storage that is either indoors or at least 30 feet from the home. Plant material in gutters can also be ignited by wind-blown embers, so you should routinely remove dry debris from your roof and gutters, including around skylights.
Know your zones
There are other things you can do to improve your curb appeal while also reducing wildfire risk. Take a look at the five feet immediately around your home, also known as Zone 1. This “home ignition zone” should be kept clear of all combustible materials and designed with fire-resistant landscaping, including hardscape like gravel, pavers, concrete and other noncombustible mulch materials, as well as certain plants. While vegetation should be limited, there are a variety of colorful fire-resistant plants suitable for Zone 1, depending on your house’s siding. Don’t forget that part of keeping your landscape fire resistant is watering and caring for vegetation so it does not become dry and flammable. The home ignition zone requires consistent maintenance to be sure debris and weeds don’t negate your efforts.
In Zone 2, the area up to 30 feet around your home, you should remove dead vegetation and shrubs underneath trees and keep any trees healthy and well-spaced—about 10 feet between canopies. In addition to landscaping, your personal belongings can also be vulnerable to wildfire. You should move all items such as RVs or trailers out of this zone or into Zone 3.
Zone 3 extends 100 feet around the home, or up to 200 feet if your home is near a steep slope. The goal here is to reduce the energy and spread of the wildfire, and, similarly to Zone 2, precautions largely consist of removing, trimming, and spacing out trees and shrubs.
Good fences make good neighbors
If you and your neighbors have fences that overlap, even a small gap between fences can cause debris and embers to accumulate and ignite. Additionally, the two fences together create more fuel for a more intense fire, increasing your home’s exposure to heat and burning embers. Remember to talk to your neighbors and work together to repair or remove sections that overlap. The conversation shouldn’t stop at fences either. It’s important to ask your neighbors about the steps they are taking to prepare their home for wildfires, because your neighbor’s risk is your risk, too.
These simple DIY tips can help you avoid a potentially catastrophic loss. Download this infographic now to get started on weekend projects to increase the safety of your property.
Talk to us
At Nationwide, we go the extra mile to help you with wildfire safety and preparedness. For more information, contact your agent or visit our partners at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety for more wildfire safety tips and resources at disastersafety.org/wildfire.