U.S. residents in dry regions know that wildfires can occur at any time when temperatures rise, humidity drops and destructive winds combine to increase the risk of brush and forest fire. Wildfires can be devastating—causing serious damage to your property and threatening personal safety. That’s why advance preparation is essential if you want protect your family, pets and home from these devastating firestorms. So, here are a few tips to help you prepare.
What to do before a fire:
- Establish and maintain a safe zone around your house that will act as a fire break. Install a greenbelt around your home and other structures of low-growing, fire-resistant plants. Your local nursery can suggest a combination of attractive, water-wise plant materials that will help to reduce your home's vulnerability. If possible, your safe zone should be 100 feet wide.
- Retrofit your home with non-flammable building materials. Roofs should be made of a non-combustible, "Class A" fire-resistant material. Exterior windows should be dual-paned tempered glass. Exterior walls should be finished with fire-resistant materials such as stucco, stone or brick. Although easy-to-maintain, vinyl siding can melt in a fire and is not recommended.
- Clean roof surfaces, gutters and eaves of leaves, pine needles and branches regularly to avoid accumulation of flammable materials.
- Install spark arresters in chimneys and install one-quarter inch, non-combustible screens in all vent or eave openings.
- Keep trees and shrubs pruned and remove dead or dying trees and plant materials. Stagger planting of trees to create a barrier to intercept and help prevent wind-driven burning material from reaching your home. Prune branches that are near or overhang the roof. Remove lower tree branches below six feet from the ground, and maintain a vegetation-free zone beneath the tree's drip line.
- Store flammable liquids properly and away from occupied buildings. Propane tanks should be located 50 feet from structures, and valves should be turned off if there is a danger of fire. The tank area should be clear of flammable vegetation and combustible materials.
- All combustibles, such as firewood, picnic tables, boats, etc., should be located at least 50 feet from your home and other structures.
- Do not connect wood fencing directly to your home.
- Maintain your irrigation system.
- Make sure your street address is visible from the street.
What to do during a wildfire:
Wildfires can occur unexpectedly and homeowners should be ready to take action.
- Tune in to news broadcasts for reports and evacuation information.
- Park your car in an open space facing the direction of escape.
- Gather pets and confine them to one room.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Leave immediately if advised to evacuate.
Emergency preparedness kits - What to take to an evacuation center
The American Red Cross offers these suggestions from former evacuees about items to include in an emergency preparedness kit.
- Comfortable clothing, such as sweats, and sturdy shoes
- Medications for the family and pets
- Personal items, such as family pictures, favorite books, iPod and cell phone with chargers, and your bed pillow
- Snack food
- Cash (small bills and coins)
- Insurance paperwork and contact information
- Cell phone chargers
Homeowners with property located in rural areas or communities adjacent to open space have a greater risk of damage during a wildfire. If fire officials declare an evacuation—and time permits—homeowners should take these safety precautions prior to departing.
- Turn off gas and pilot lights.
- Turn on a light in every room.
- Move combustible patio furniture inside, and relocate flammable furniture away from windows and sliding glass doors.
- Connect garden hoses to outside faucets.
- Hose down rooftops and the outside of your home.
- Lock your home.
- Follow the designated evacuation route.
Filing a claim
Claims can be reported to Mercury's Claims Hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling (800) 503-3724. Learn more by reading our fire insurance claims guide.
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