Vents are entry points for embers. All vent openings should be covered with 1/8-inch or smaller wire mesh, or install ember-resistant vents.
Use noncombustible exterior siding materials, such as stucco, brick, cement board and steel. Log homes with fire-rated chinking or notched logs are also good choices.
Embers accumulate in the underside of eaves. Enclose the underside of eaves with fiber cement board or 5/8-inch-thick, high-grade plywood. If enclosing eaves is not possible, fill gaps under open eaves with caulk.
Windows and Skylights
Windows usually break before the structure ignites. Install windows that are at least double-glazed and that utilize tempered glass for the exterior pane. Closeable, solid exterior shutters can provide additional window protection. Keep skylights free of pine needles, leaves and other debris, and remove overhanging branches.
Chimney and stovepipe openings should be screened with a spark arrestor cap.
Embers roll off roofs and into rain gutters. Keep rain gutters free of leaves, needles and debris. Check and clean them regularly.
Consider replacing wood-shake or shingle roofs with a Class-A fire-resistant type (composition, metal or tile). Keep roof free of leaves, needles and debris.
Store firewood at least 30 feet from the house or cover with an ember-resistant firewood cover.
Keep the porch, deck and other areas of the home free of easily combustible materials (baskets, dried flower arrangements, newspapers, pine needles and debris).
Replace at least the first 5 feet of any wooden fence attached to the house with a noncombustible fence section or gate.
Keep all decks in good condition and free of pine needles, leaves, twigs and weeds. Remove debris from underneath decks.
Wildland Fuel Reduction Area
Beyond your residential landscape, remove dead vegetation, create separation between shrubs and trees, and remove low tree branches and shrubs under trees.
Lean, Clean, and Green Area
Keep the residential landscape area located within the first 30 feet from the home lean, clean and green. Have only a small amount of flammable vegetation, with no accumulation of dead vegetation. Use plants that are healthy, green and irrigated during the hot, dry summer.
The first 5 feet around the base of your home should be kept free of all combustible materials, including wood mulches, dead or dry vegetation and other debris. Use irrigated herbaceous plants, rock mulches or hard surfaces.
Long driveways should have a turnaround area suitable for a 3-point turn or a cul-de-sac with at least a 45-foot radius.
Road Width and Grade
20-foot wide roads and 12-foot wide driveways with a 12 percent or less steepness grade increase emergency access to a neighborhood.
Install address signs that use contrasting noncombustible material with characters at least 6 inches high.
Remove flammable vegetation for 10 feet from both sides of the driveway, and overhead to provide at least a 13 ½-foot vertical clearance.
When possible, create turnouts on long driveways to allow 2-way traffic.
Fire adapted communities have street signs posted at each intersection and are made of reflective, noncombustible material.
Bridges and Culverts
Post load limits on bridges and culverts leading to your home.
A second access road to improves traffic flow during an emergency.
Electronically operated driveway gates require key access for local fire departments and districts.
Step 1: Sign Up for Emergency Notifications
Emergency notification systems are used by county emergency managers to send a prepared message via text, email or telephone to people in the affected area. Most systems will allow you to enter multiple forms of contact information, such as home phone number, cell phone, work phone and email address. To register, follow the links below for your County:
Step 2: Prepare my Home and Family for Evacuation
Residents of a fire adapted community are prepared to safely and effectively evacuate. To prepare in advance:
- Meet with household members. Explain dangers to children, and work as a team to prepare your family for emergencies.
- Discuss what to do about power outages and personal injuries.
- Post emergency phone numbers near phones.
- Learn how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at your home.
- Select a safe meeting point, in case you are separated from family members.
- Choose an out-of-town contact because it is often easier to make a long-distance phone call than a local call from a disaster area. Everyone must know the contact’s phone number.
- Complete a family communications plan that includes contact information for family members, work and school.
- Teach children how to make long-distance phone calls.
- Complete an inventory of home contents and photograph/video the house and landscape. Place files in your to-go bag and store a second copy in a location outside of your community.
- Identify escape routes and safe places, and draw an escape plan highlighting two routes out of each room. Be sure everyone in your family knows them.
- Prepare EVACUATED sign. Select a site to post signs where they will be clearly visible from the street.
Step 3: Make a Go Bag
A go bag should be prepared before an emergency, be easily accessible and filled with at least a three day supply of items needed to help you quickly and safely evacuate your home. Essentials include:
- Clothing and personal toiletries.
- Inventory of home contents and photographs/videotape of the house and landscape.
- An inventory checklist from your insurance agent.
- Flashlight, portable radio tuned to an emergency radio station and extra batteries changed annually.
- Extra set of car and house keys.
- Extra pair of eyeglasses.
- Contact information for family, friends and physicians.
If you anticipate an extended evacuation at an emergency shelter or your family is returning to a home without functioning electricity and water, consider also creating a disaster supplies kit using lists from https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/survival-kit-supplies.html.
Step 4: Understand Special Needs of Vulnerable Populations
Prepare to address the special needs of vulnerable populations, including the elderly and people with medical problems or disabilities.
- If the family member is dependent upon medications, equipment or has special dietary needs, plan to bring those items with you. Documentation about insurance and medical conditions should also accompany the person.
- Transportation available to the general public during an emergency evacuation may not be suitable for family members with special needs. Plan ahead for their transportation.
- Many special needs populations are easily upset and stressed by sudden and frightening changes. Your plans should ensure that a caregiver or trusted family member is able to stay with them at all times during an evacuation.
Step 5: Prepare for Pets
Prepare to address the needs of your pets if you have to evacuate.
- Make sure dogs and cats wear properly fitted collars with identification, vaccination, microchip and license tags.
- Your pet evacuation plan should include routes, transportation needs and host sites. Share this plan with trusted neighbors in your absence.
- Exchange veterinary information with neighbors and file a permission slip with the veterinarian authorizing emergency care for your animals if you cannot be located.
- Make sure all vehicles, trailers and pet carriers needed for evacuation are serviced and ready to be used.
- Assemble a pet go bag with a supply of food, non-spill food and water bowls, cat litter and box and a restraint (chain, leash or harness). Additional items to include are newspaper and paper towels, plastic bags, permanent marker, bleach/disinfectant solution and water buckets.
Step 6: Print Evacuation Checklist
Remember, there is nothing you own worth your life! Please evacuate immediately when asked by fire or law enforcement officials. If you are concerned, don’t wait to be asked to leave. Drive slowly, turn on your vehicle headlights and stay as far to the right side of the road as possible. Always register with official personnel when you arrive at a shelter. Print this Wildfire Evacuation Checklist and, if you have time, use it as a guide to evacuate quickly and safely.
A safe area is a designated location within a community where people can go to wait out the wildfire. Often safe areas are ball fields, golf courses, parks and parking lots.
Land managers implement fuel reduction projects around neighborhoods to reduce flammable wildland fuels and improve forest health. Tree stands are thinned, tree canopies are raised by removing lower branches, and the understory vegetation is reduced. These projects can slow an approaching fire, improve the success of fire retardant dropped from the air, and provide a safer area for firefighters to operate. They are particularly effective when integrated with the defensible space of adjacent homes.
Land Managers use prescribed fire to reduce flammable wildland fuels and improve forest health. A prescribed fire project is well planned, carefully orchestrated, and involves the disciplines of fire ecology, fire suppression, forestry and public safety.
Before You Enter the House
If you were evacuated, contact your insurance agent or company to let them know how you can be reached. Keep receipts for temporary living expenses, like motel room and meals. Do not return to your home until re-entry is permitted by law enforcement officials. Do not cross a barricade or hazard tape without permission. Things to do before entering the house:
- Be careful when going back into your neighborhood, as charred trees and power poles may be unstable, fires may flare up without warning, and live power lines may be on the ground.
- Watch out for ash pits — holes created by burned trees filled with hot ash.
- Check to see if your gas and electric utilities are working properly. If you smell gas, shut off the gas supply at the main valve, leave immediately, and call the gas company. If the electricity is not working, check to see if the main breaker is "on". If it is and there is no power, call your power company.
- Your house and yard may be covered in ash and may still have live embers present. Wear protective clothing and a dust mask.
- Check for and extinguish any burning embers on the roof, in rain gutters, on the porch or elsewhere on your property.
Inside the House
Things to do once you enter the house:
- Check for embers and smoke in the attic and in the crawl space. Check every day for several days.
- Start a list of things that have been damaged. Damage can occur from fire, smoke, water and chemicals. Take photographs. Don’t throw away damaged belongings or make repairs until you've talked to your insurance company.
- Do not eat food, drink beverages, or take medicine exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
- Smoke can infiltrate cloth and other materials. Use one to two cups of white vinegar with each load of wash to help rid clothing of the “smoke smell.” Commercial cleaning may be necessary for your drapes, upholstery and carpet.
Things to do for landscape care:
- Fire damaged trees may survive, depending on their species, condition before the fire, and how badly they were scorched. Good indicators that a tree will survive are a green or white, moist cambium layer beneath the bark, or if most of the buds are still green, moist and flexible. Sometimes it is hard to tell if a tree will survive. In those cases, it may be worthwhile to wait until next spring.
- Sometimes the soil itself can begin to repel water to become "hydrophobic." If water won't soak into the ground, try loosening the soil with a rake. A thin layer of straw on top of the soil can help it absorb moisture.
- Irrigate stressed plants as soon as you can. Water the ground under trees for the full width of their drip line — the circumference of their canopy of branches — and a few feet farther. Keep watering until the soil is moist to a depth of 12-15 inches.
- Fire stressed trees are vulnerable to beetle attack. Look for pink to red colored pitch on the branches. Beetle infested trees should be cut down and removed.
- Soil erosion becomes a major concern after wildfire. Several techniques are available for controlling erosion, including reseeding, the use of a straw mulch, and felling damaged trees across a slope. Planting of conservation grasses like crested wheatgrass can also help control erosion.
Information and Resources
The following links to additional information and resources may help you after a fire has affected your home or community.
- After The Burn – Assessing and Managing Your Forestland After A Wildfire
- What Grows Back After the Fire
Additional Website Resources: