It is essential that no matter where you live you take care to protect your home and family from fire. Homes in areas that experience high temperatures and dry conditions are even more susceptible to fire dangers, especially during the summer. There are a number of safety measures you should consider as fire season is in full force around the country to protect your family and your personal property from the potential for fire damage.
The simplest and easiest way to prevent fire damage is to think ahead. Educate yourself on the high-risk areas around your home, the type of vegetation surrounding it, and how fire-resistant your land may or may not be. If you live in a wooded area, know the history of wildfire in your area. Is there a history of drought during the summer? Have there been fires near your property in the past?
Homes in areas at high risk for wildfires should have a proper emergency evacuation plan – this may be the surest way to protect your family. Plan several escape routes in case a fire blocks main roads and have emergency kit materials ready to go at a moments notice.
Creating a safety zone around your house and property can help reduce the amount of damage done to your home by flames. Minimizing the amount of vegetation within thirty feet of your home will lessen the risk of fire damage to your possessions. It is recommended that trees and shrubbery be pruned to fifteen feet of fireplaces, stoves, and chimneys. Brick walls, stone patios, and swimming pools can also act as barriers against flames.
Making sure the area immediately around your home is clear of combustible material is also very important for fire disaster prevention. Home and business owners should try to install electrical lines underground if possible. They should also notify the electric company if branches start to interfere with power lines. Keep firewood and gas grills away from any structure and combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers. Overhangs are high risk items for fire; using the area under them for storage greatly increases that risk. Some property owners encase their overhang or porch stilts in non-combustible material such as brick, concrete, or metal to reduce the risk of fire damage.
Wire mesh added to air vents and chimneys will help prevent embers and flaming debris from entering a building. Fire-resistant siding, such as stucco, metal, or brick helps a home resist catching fire if flames get too close. Dual- or triple-pane thermal glass helps reduce the risk of heat passing through your windows and igniting materials inside your home.
The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home during a fire. Wood, shake, and shingle roofs are particularly risky. It is best to stick with fiberglass, slate, metal, clay, or concrete tile.
Proper disaster preparation could mean the difference between losing everything – property, possessions, lives – and salvaging your home and everything you hold dear. Take the time to learn the fire history of your area and implement proper fire damage prevention measures in order to drastically reduce the risk of damage and the need to restore your home, documents and important materials completely. Contact your local fire department and find out what they recommend for fire protection if you have any questions about your particular area.
~Ben Anton, 2008
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