How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires in California
California experienced 18 major wildfires between 2003 and 2022. The largest took place in August 2020. Therefore, Californians must prepare their homes for wildfires, among other natural disasters.
According to Cal Fire, the August Complex fire burned 1 million acres and took down 932 structures in Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity, Tehama, Glenn, Lake, and Colusa counties. Lightning started the burn, and it claimed one life.
The Woolsey fire didn’t earn a spot in the Top 20 largest California wildfires, but it infamously impacted the homes of celebrities, music moguls, and others from the rich and famous.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West hired private firefighters to keep their mansion safe as the fire ravaged the area.
It’s tough to fend off flames when the wind breathes life into them. It’s also difficult to stay behind and protect a home when the local fire departments and state officials order residents to evacuate the areas.
However, Californians can take preventive steps to minimize damage before a fire disaster occurs.
The following are some tips on how to prepare your home for wildfires in California.
Understand the Home Ignition Zone
In the late 1990s, Jack Cohen, a retired USDA Forest Service fire scientist, developed the home ignition zone concept. The National Fire Protection Association shares the idea so homeowners can prepare their properties and attempt to minimize potential damage.
The concept divides properties into three zones:
Each zone requires action steps that we’ll discuss in this article. For example, individuals benefit from keeping the gutters for several reasons.
Californians must stock up on several home-related insurance policies, such as earthquakes and fire. You can contact a fire damage attorney in California if you need to file an insurance claim or need legal guidance.
Clear Outdoor Debris
Clearing outdoor debris from a home’s gutters and roofs keeps its exterior in good shape. Outdoor debris, like leaves, dust, and dirt, mixes with rain, morning moisture, and evening due and turns slush and mold.
The slush and mold become breeding grounds for bugs and eat away roofing and exterior materials. It also turns into kindling for fires.
Therefore, the immediate zones require the following:
- Cleaning roofs
- Removing dead leaves, pine needles, and debris consistently
- Installing mesh screens over vents
- Repairing broken windows and loose window frames
- Removing flammable materials from the home’s immediate exterior
- Decluttering patios and porches
Maintaining the immediate zone helps build a barrier if a fire comes toward a home.
Maintaining landscaping falls into the immediate and intermediate zones, depending on the property’s size.
California’s mixed forest, desert, and coast add to its charm. Residents and tourists enjoy having access to the diverse ecosystem. However, it requires constant maintenance.
Leaf piles, dry brush, and tall grass fuel fires. Therefore, minimize each.
Californians don’t face tornadoes or snow storms regularly. But they do deal with earthquakes and droughts. Individuals who have trouble maintaining living landscapes can replace grass with concrete walkways, which disrupt the path of oncoming fires.
Plus, removing grass and adding concrete alternatives reduce water bills and use.
Store Outdoor Equipment in a Garage
The intermediate zone of the ignition plan takes place five feet away from the house and stretches to 30. It’s also the best place to store outdoor equipment, such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers that require gasoline to start.
Since they can fuel a fire, keep them away from the house and store them in their enclosed space, such as a separate garage.
Maintain Access to Water
The extended zone starts 30 feet from the house and stretches out 100 to 200 feet of the property. Individuals cannot prevent fire in this zone. Instead, they can work to disrupt it.
Keeping debris at a minimum is one strategy. In the face of a fire, spraying heavy amounts of water at it and on the home could also depress it.
Therefore, ensure that you maintain access to water. Some news footage that covered the fires showed homeowners dousing their homes with water through their hoses.
Sometimes water can fan the flames further. After all, fire departments drop chemical retardants when fighting them. However, it doesn’t hurt to soak the house before the flames arrive.
Over the last 20 years, wildfires in California have had three major causes: lightning, powerlines, and human-related, occurring without warning. Since the state experiences sunny conditions throughout the year, fires often have the conditions to grow. Californians know that they must prepare for earthquakes. It’s also time to start planning for wildfires, just in case.