How to Protect Your Home from Wildfires During Summer Heat Waves

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24, 2017

Summer is in full swing in California – and temperatures are high. There have already been 2,905 fires and 68,129 acres burned in 2017 as of July 9th – more than twice the number of acres burned in the same time period last year (30,574 acres). Preventing wildfires is a community effort throughout California, with laws such as burn bans helping to prevent fire outbreaks and contain them. However, there are things you can do as an individual to protect your home and family in the event of a wildfire. If your local news station announces a fire nearby, here’s what to do.

Understand the Heat Index

Preparing for a major heat wave starts with a firm grasp on local temperatures. However, a simple thermometer isn’t enough to do the trick. Instead, pay attention to the heat index – a system the National Weather Service (NWS) set up to warn people about extreme temperatures. The heat index factors in relative humidity to determine how hot it actually feels in an area. For example, if the temperature is 88 degrees, but there is 50% humidity, the heat index is 91 degrees.

Check the heat index regularly to see how hot it really is in your location. A heat index alert on the radio or television will explain how serious the risk is and how to remain safe. If you hear there is an “excessive heat outlook,” this means the NWS anticipates excessive heat in the next three to seven days. A “watch” means imminent high heat in the next 24 to 72 hours. An “advisory” (heat index exceeding 100 degrees during the day) or “warning” (heat index of 105 degrees) will occur when excessive heat has arrived and will likely last for two or more days.

Learn Your Home’s Wildfire Risk Level

Heat waves typically start out with high humidity levels. Over time, however, extended high temperatures will dry out the moisture in the air and leave conditions ideal for wildfires. Acts of God like lightning, and, more often, human involvement, can quickly lead to an out-of-control blaze. It is difficult for firefighters to save residences, so the focus is often not on saving the building, but saving its occupants and preventing further devastation.

You can identify your risk of home damage during a wildfire by examining its location. Homes that sit at the tops of crests, hills, and mountains are typically at the greatest risk since wildfires gain strength as they burn uphill. High-elevation homes often have fire-resistant building materials and wildfire defense zones that can prevent fire damage. Class A roofing materials made with clay tiles or asphalt fiberglass, for example, can reduce the risk of an ember sparking a fire on your roof.

Get Your Home Fire-Ready

There are some things you can do to increase your safety as a California resident. Keep your gutters free of leaves, pine needles, and debris that could act as tinder if a nearby fire sends embers your way. Clean your gutters, chimney, skylights, vents, attics, and shutters. Keep shrubbery near your home trimmed short, and get rid of debris that collects against your home’s foundation. Design your landscape to act as a wildfire barrier – remove brush, keep trees pruned, and eliminate dead wood and low-hanging limbs. Work with a professional landscaper to help plant the right flora to discourage the spread of wildfire to your home.

Stay prepared for an evacuation in case a wildfire threatens your property. Minimize risk to your home during an evacuation by turning off all gas lines and circuit breakers, moving flammable items inside, removing flammable curtains, and moving furniture away from windows. Closing all your windows and vents can also prevent total home devastation, as fire feeds on oxygen. Stay alert, informed, and prepared to beat the heat – and potential fires – this summer.

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