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Focus on Fire: Wildfires

Focus on Fire: Wildfires


More and more people are making their homes in woodland settings – in or near forests, rural areas, or remote mountain sites. There, homeowners enjoy the beauty of the environment but face the very real danger of wildfire.

Every year across our Nation some homes survive after a major wildfire while many others do not. Those that survive almost always do so because their owners had prepared for the eventuality of fire, which is an inescapable force of nature in fire-prone wildland areas.

Said in another way – if it’s predictable, it’s preventable!

Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI)

Americans are building homes in the wildland-urban interface – the zone where homes are intermixed with wildland vegetation. One study estimates that 44 million homes in the lower 48 states are located in areas that meet or intermingle with wildland vegetation¹. In the 1990s, 1.7 million new homes were built in the wildland-urban interface in California, Oregon, and Washington alone; bringing the total of homes contained in the WUI in these three states to nearly 7 million². The story is similar in the Rocky Mountain States of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado. In these four States, during the same decade, the rate at which homes were being built in the WUI accelerated almost 23%³.

How Do Wildfires Begin?

• Natural wildland fires are generally caused by lightning, which strikes the earth an average of 100 times each second and has caused some of the most notable wildland fires in the U.S.
• Parks from falling rocks
• Volcanic activity such as Mount St. Helens
• Unfortunately, human activity is the primary cause of wildland fires.

Before Wildfire Threatens

Every year many families are evacuated and unnecessarily lose their homes and possessions to wildland fire. These losses can be minimized if homeowners take the time to become aware of safety measures to help protect their homes and complete some effective actions.

Fire Safe Outside:

• Construct roofs and exterior structures of dwellings with non-combustible or fire resistant materials such as fire resistant roofing materials, tile, slate, sheet iron, aluminum, brick, or stone.
• Treat wood siding, cedar shakes, exterior wood paneling, and other highly combustible materials with fire retardant chemicals.
• Clear a perimeter of defensible space around homes.
• Clean dead leaves and needles from your roof and gutters.
• Cover chimneys and stovepipes with non-flammable mesh.
• Stack woodpiles 100 feet from all structures.

Fire Safe Inside:

• Install smoke alarms.
• Install smoke alarms in bedrooms if you sleep with the door closed.
• Keep a charged, ABC-type fire extinguisher in the kitchen and garage; make sure family members know how to properly use it.