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Make your home fire resistant | Local

WASHINGTON DC – Wildfires are often unpredictable. With nearly nine out of 10 wildfires caused by humans, people can make the biggest difference by paying attention to weather, fire restrictions and safe practices to prevent wildfires from starting. Homeowners in or near forested areas have a unique role to play: working proactively to prepare their property and home for wildfires.

The Forest Service is partnering with the National Fire Protection Association and its Firewise Communities, a program that teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfires and encourages neighbors to band together and take action now to prevent losses. According to the association, the number of homes lost each year to wildfires has increased 163%, and wildfires now cost the U.S. an estimated $63 billion to $285 billion per year in losses. The association also notes that nearly 45 million homes border or intermingle with natural areas and that more than 72,000 U.S. communities are now at risk.

This means that people living in communities near open spaces should take steps to increase the chance that a wildfire will not consume their property. Firewise yards are protected by areas of grass, rocks or evergreen ground covers that enclose the house, creating an area where high-intensity fires have little to burn.

This space is necessary to slow or stop the spread of wildfires and helps protect your home from fire, either through direct flame contact or radiant heat. Defensible space is also important for protecting the firefighters defending your home.

Here are the key steps of the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise program:

In and around your home

  • Remove leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and patios. This prevents embers from setting your house on fire.
  • Remove dead vegetation and other objects from under your patio or porch, and within 10 feet of the house. Learn more about the basics of defensible space on the Firewise website.
  • Screen or box-in areas under patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent dirt and flammable materials from accumulating.
  • Remove flammable materials (piles of firewood, propane tanks) within 30 feet of the foundation of your home and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it could catch fire, make sure it doesn’t touch your house, patio or porch.
  • Wildfires can spread to treetops. Prune trees so that the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it off to reduce the burning intensity. Dry grass and shrubs fuel wildfires.
  • Do not leave dirt and grass clippings behind. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
  • Inspect shingles or tiles. Replace or repair loose or missing parts to prevent embers from entering.
  • Cover exterior attic vents with metal mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home.
  • Seal vents or screens under the eaves and in the ceiling with metal mesh to prevent embers from entering.
  • Learn more about how to protect your home and property at www.firewise.org.

Make an emergency plan

  • Assemble an emergency supply kit and place it in a safe place. Don’t forget to include important documents, medications and personal identification.
  • Develop an emergency evacuation plan and practice it with everyone in your home.
  • Plan two ways to leave your neighborhood and designate a meeting place.
  • Learn more about emergency preparedness on the NFPA’s emergency planning web page.

In your community:

  • Check with your local planning/zoning office to find out if your home is in a high-risk area for wildfires and if there are any specific local or state ordinances you must follow.
  • If you belong to a homeowners association, work with them to establish regulations that include proven preparedness in landscaping, home design and use of building materials.
  • Talk to your local fire department about how to prepare, when to evacuate, and what response you and your neighbors can expect in the event of a wildfire.
  • Learn about efforts to reduce wildfire risk, including how land management agencies use prescribed fire to manage local landscapes.
  • Find out how you can make a positive difference in your community.