3 Ways to Protect Your Home from Wildfires

August 1st, 2019

A large, brown new-build home in the woods.
Large mountain cabin house with stone and driveway after rain.

The memories from wildfires which ravaged Fort McMurray in 2016 and Slave Lake in 2011 are still recent in our minds. In May 2019, over 4000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes thanks to the Chuckegg Creek fire.

While a number of wildfires are human-caused, wildfires can’t always be prevented and it takes a lot of work to contain them. However, there are some ways to protect your home from wildfires. This article will cover three:

  1. Create a defensible space.
  2. Safeguard your home.
  3. Establish a plan if wildfires threaten your home.

How to Protect Your Home from Wildfires

Wildfires can spark instantaneously and spread quickly if the conditions are right. Whether the fire is a result of a lightning strike, a spark from an ATV, or a cigarette butt, dryness and wind can fan the flames easily. Where the fire will go depends on the weather, fuel, and geography.

You cannot completely fireproof your home but you can help reduce the chance of it catching fire and provide help to firefighters who are trying to save your property.

Create a Defensible Space

Creating a defensible space means eliminating or reducing flammable materials around your home and on your property. It also means ensuring firefighters have access to your property and, if possible, a water source.

The first level of defensible space is a 10 metre radius around your home and any other structures. Flammable materials such as propane tanks, dead vegetation, mulch, and wood should all be removed from this zone. Landscaping with gravel, stones, and sand is a good idea. If you have grass, keep it watered and short.

Burn barrels and fire pits should be kept at least three metres from any structures or materials that could be combustible. Always keep a reliable source of water nearby.

Firewood stored on your property is an obvious hazard, which can be mitigated by placing it at least ten meters away from any nearby building. By placing it under a tarp or in a fire-resistant box, you further lower the risk of it catching fire.

The second level of defensible space extends to your property lines. You should focus on reducing the number of fuel sources available to wildfires. This can be done by managing your vegetation. Eliminate all dead or dying plants as often as you can. Keep your trees three to six metres apart, and prevent branches from being within two metres of the ground.

If your property is larger than this, opt to thin the undergrowth of any forests and ensure that your trees all have the adequate space to grow.

Safeguarding Your House

While you may not be able to rebuild your home to make it more fire-resistant if you are planning to build or do renovations, materials do matter. Common maintenance is also key to protecting your home.

Exterior – What material your exterior walls are made of can considerably lessen or increase your risk of your home catching fire. Metal, concrete, stucco and brick are good materials to consider using. Both vinyl and wood should be avoided.

Roof – Material matters when it comes to your roof. Consider using tile, metal, or asphalt shingle roofs. Clean off any debris such as leaves from your roof regularly. If there is a threat of a wildfire, you can also add water to your proof.

Doors and Windows – Heat can very easily conduct through windows and set fire to furniture and curtains. Smaller double-pane windows that are tempered and thermal, accompanied by fire-resistant curtains (or non-combustible shutters) are a good option. Keep in mind that a larger window is less stable, and more likely to break with high heat stress.

Chimney – By keeping your chimney cleaned and well maintained, you will lessen your risk of fire entering your home.

Eaves – Make sure that your eaves are cleaned out regularly. Flying embers are one of the biggest threats and are often what ignites homes. Screens on your eaves can also prevent this.

Vents – Your vents should be regularly cleaned and have screens. You may be able to purchase ember-resistant vents at some stores. 

One of the biggest steps to protecting your property from damage is by ensuring that emergency vehicles and services are able to access your house. Making a water source readily available will aid in fire suppression as well.

Establish a Plan in the Event of a Wildfire

While you can certainly prepare your home for the risk of a wildfire, your home can still be in jeopardy of catching fire if you live in a highly-populated area. For instance, if you are 100 feet or closer to your next over neighbour, if their home or yard ignites, your home is at significantly higher risk. By having your community organize adequate fire preparation, you lessen this chance.

You should also establish a plan of action if wildfire becomes a threat. That could include moving all furniture and loose items inside your home, watering down your yard and home, and preparing for an evacuation. Communicate your plan with the whole family.

Wildfire Insurance Coverage

Wildfire is covered by home insurance, however, it’s important to ensure your policy limits and coverage options adequately reflect your needs. Home insurance will help you recover if you lose your home or it is damaged by fire; it also provides additional living expenses if you’re forced to evacuate, up to your policy limit.

You will not be able to alter your home insurance coverage if you are currently experiencing a threat or if an evacuation order has been issued. That’s why it’s key that you keep up to date with your policy regularly. Contact your broker to discuss your policy options. They’ll be able to help answer any questions, too.

Contact your Rogers Insurance Professional to get a quote today.

Blog Author: Gabrielle Reid



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