Wildfires have become a regular part of life for those living in California. They are commonplace enough to earn a dedicated season on the calendar. In 2020, nearly 10,000 wildfires burned across an estimated 4.2 million acres of land. Last year was especially devastating, reaching records unexperienced since 1960. As climate change worsens, wildfires are becoming more severe and frequent, extending the fire season far beyond its typical timeframe.
Wildfires’ unpredictability can be devastating for unprepared communities. In 2020, fires damaged or destroyed a total of 10,488 structures. Wildfires spread quickly and can reach neighborhoods before firefighters can get them under control. As a property owner, you’re willing to do anything to keep your home and family safe during wildfires. Though you cannot fireproof your house, there are several ways to protect your home from California wildfires.
As wildfires become more common, you must learn what to do when the next sparks ignite. Taking the correct precautions against wildfires can help protect your home in an emergency.
What Are Wildfires?
Mother Nature is a magnificent force. You may be surprised to learn that parts of California have periodically been on fire for millions of years.
California has a rich ecosystem that fosters more native plants than any other state. The diverse terrain of deep canyons and sheer cliffs creates areas firefighters have difficulty reaching, allowing fires to burn uncontrollably. In the past, the ecosystem has adapted to wildfires, which thin the vegetation and promote regeneration. A few species of trees even depend on small fires as part of their lifecycle. However, much like the human population, they are under threat by the extreme wildfires of late.
Over time, the environment has changed dramatically. The composition of California forests has changed, and global temperatures have risen, resulting in a landscape that is more susceptible to frequent, severe wildfires. Firefighting budgets are coming up short every year, leaving little funding for fire prevention initiatives. The lack of resources, combined with record high temperatures and arid conditions, have created the perfect storm to give rise to some of the most severe wildfires in California.
Preparing Your Home for Wildfires
If you wait until a wildfire sparks nearby, it may be too late. Start preparing early for a fire emergency by taking the following precautions to protect your home.
1. Make a Plan
A wildfire can strike at any time. Keeping your family on the same page will help them stay safe in case of an emergency. Discuss an action plan with your household and prepare for various scenarios. Create a designated location to meet outside your home in case it catches fire and map out an escape route to evacuate the area. Determine how you will protect your pets as well. Practice these plans regularly and take wildfire safety courses to prepare your family.
Stock your home with the necessary items to complement your plan of action. Prepare an emergency supply kit for each family member and keep an extra one in the car for a rapid evacuation. Keep stock of fire extinguishers and ensure everyone knows how to use them. Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers and save them in the contact list of every family member with a cellphone.
Once you have prepped your household to handle a wildfire emergency, you must stay alert for warnings. Subscribe to safety alerts on your phone and keep a battery-operated radio on hand. Wildfires are unexpected and can spread to your neighborhood while your family is away from home. Ensure all your family members have access to a phone and know your contact information. You can never be too prepared, and making a plan can help you stay calm if a fire ever reaches your community.
2. Create a Defensible Space
Fires can reach your home from miles away with flying embers that are ready to ignite. A neighboring house or nearby tree that is burning can also transfer flames to your home. Protect your home with a defensible space to reduce the chance of damage from a wildfire.
Defensible space is a perimeter around your home that you can create by clearing or reducing flammable materials like plants and debris to prevent fire from spreading onto your property and reaching your home.
California law requires all homes within the State Responsibility Area to create a defensible space of 100 feet on all sides. The Board of Forestry and Fire Protection has created a system with three zones to help homeowners manage their property. The parameters vary within each zone, with the most precautions necessary within the area closest to the home.
Create the following zones to protect your home against wildfires.
- – Zone 0: The “ember-resistant” zone ranges from 0 to 5 feet from a house. This zone requires the most wildfire fuel reduction strategies. It is best to remove all plant material and branches within this area. Limit plants and flammable landscaping materials like mulch. Move firewood, garbage cans and outdoor furniture outside this zone.
- – Zone 1: The “lean, clean and green” zone ranges from one to 30 feet from a house. Clear this area of dead plants, weeds and dried vegetation. Trim branches to keep a minimum of 10 feet between trees. Move bushes and plants away from any flammable structures and keep them trimmed and watered. Separate combustible materials like trees and furniture to reduce the spread of wildfire.
- – Zone 2: The “reduce fuel zone” ranges from 30 to 100 feet from a house. You can store firewood within this zone, with a minimum 10-foot parameter cleared down to the soil. Continue removing debris to three inches deep or less. Separate shrubs and trees with clear space in between. Keep grass mowed to four inches or shorter.
To prepare your home for wildfires, start building a defensible space around your house that expands evenly until you reach 100 feet or the end of your property line.
3. Fireproof Your Home
Reinforce your home with flame-resistant materials, so it is more likely to survive a wildfire. It may take time to prepare all the necessary precautions, but your home will be more resilient to withstand a fire emergency.
Follow these tips for how to protect your home from wildfires.
- – Roof and gutters: Depending on your roofing material, it may be highly flammable. Wood and shingle roofs will ignite if exposed to fire. Metal, clay or tile options are heat-resistant and less likely to catch fire. Regularly clean your roof and gutters of leaves and other debris.
- – Openings: Vents in your home can be access points for loose embers. Install flame-resistant vents and cover them with a non-combustible mesh. Cover your chimney, and block off the fireplace when it isn’t in use for additional protection.
- – Windows: Glass windows will burst under extreme heat, leaving your home vulnerable to fire. A dual-paned window with one layer of tempered glass is less likely to break. Install window screens to act as an additional barrier against the heat and embers from a nearby wildfire.
- – Siding: Your home’s exterior walls are a crucial barrier against flames. Since wooden siding will ignite easily, replace it with a less flammable material. Stucco, treated wood and cement siding are less likely to direct flames from another burning structure.
- Deck and patio: If your home has a deck or patio, ensure they are also fire-retardant. Remove combustible items from above and below your deck to prevent the fire from spreading.
- – Garage: Secure your garage door with weatherstripping so fire embers cannot get inside. Check to ensure you aren’t storing flammable liquids in your garage. Keep essential items like a fire extinguisher and hose in the garage for fire safety. Install a battery-operated opener so you can open the garage door during a power outage for an emergency escape route.
- – Fencing: A wooden fence can guide a distant flame directly to your home. Either detach the fence from your home or install five feet of fire-resistant fencing where it connects to your home.
Fire consumes plastic and wood at an astonishing rate, and even seemingly sturdy materials like glass are no match for a scorching wildfire. Securing your home with noncombustible materials will give your home the best chance against the flaming heat.
4. Get a Generator
Power outages are typical before and during wildfires in California. Counties often enforce widespread outages to prevent fires during periods of high winds. As the wildfire season becomes longer each year, you may experience an increased number of power outages than ever before.
Losing power can be an emergency on its own, particularly if you depend on electrical medical equipment. You can lose an entire stockpile of food if your refrigerator and freezer lose power for an extended period. Prepare your home with a generator so you have access to electricity during a wildfire. A generator can supply power to your entire home or only the essentials.
Protecting your home against wildfires can be stressful, and access to electricity can provide comfort and essential resources. Power your home during an emergency with All American Generator Services. No matter what is going on around you, you can count on a Generac generator to provide electricity. Our generators turn on automatically to power your home during an outage and will shut off when power comes back on. If you must evacuate, you can monitor your generator from your phone using the Mobile Link™ app.
A residential generator can provide peace of mind, so you can focus on keeping your family safe.
Keep Your Home Safe During a Wildfire
If you have prepared for a wildfire, you’ve already improved your chances of keeping your family and property safe. If a fire reaches your neighborhood, your safety will depend on following your established plan of action. Follow these suggestions to keep your home safe if a fire is burning near your community.
If Not Asked to Evacuate
If you are sheltering at home, prepare your house as much as possible and be ready to evacuate at any moment. Shut all windows and doors and move flammable items away from access points. Turn on the lights in your home to improve visibility if it fills with smoke. Turn on your sprinklers if enough water is available, and place them on the roof if possible. Turn off all propane, natural gas and oil supplies from the source to prevent an explosion.
Gather all your emergency supplies and tools and change into protective clothing. Pack essential items you can transport easily.
Constantly monitor local radio stations and be alert for an emergency evacuation. Contact a friend or family member to arrange a place to stay if you must leave your home.
If Asked to Evacuate
If an evacuation is necessary, you should get to safety as quickly as possible. With your family’s help, you can prepare to leave in a few minutes. Place a ladder near the front of your home for firefighters. Finish packing your car with essentials like emergency gear, valuable paperwork and anything else you can’t live without. Make sure you save room for your pets and their supplies.
Evacuate the area and depend on your preparations to protect your home as much as possible from fire damage. Your family is your most valuable possession, so getting them to safety is paramount.
Prepare Your Home With All American Generator Services
In the hot and dry California terrain, wildfires have become inevitable. Implementing the necessary precautions will help protect your property if a fire starts burning near your community. Prepare your home for a wildfire emergency today with All American Generator Services.
If you lose electricity due to high winds, a nearby fire or any reason, you can continue to power your home with a trusted Generac generator. Keep your home running as usual or power only the essentials to keep your family comfortable during a power outage. You depend on electricity to power your lights, air conditioning and even medical equipment. These items may become even more essential to keep your family safe during a wildfire crisis.
You can depend on industry-leading Generac generators to power your house during a natural disaster. Our team will help you choose the right generator for your residence. We also offer installation and repairs so you can focus on protecting your home. Contact our experts at All American Generator Services to learn more about how Generac generators can keep your family safe during wildfire season and all year long.