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Wildfires: planning ahead

According to the USDA Forest Service, historic fire data show that wildfires are not only getting larger; they also are becoming more intense. As populations increasingly move from metropolitan areas into the outlying fringes bordered by woodlands, grass and brush, this has significant property and life safety implications for households, farms, ranches and businesses. This decentralization into natural settings has created a landscape known as the wildland/urban interface (WUI). The WUI is defined as “the area where structures and other human development meet with undeveloped wildland.”

For those who live or work in the WUI, advance planning and taking safety precautions are critical in helping to reduce wildland fire property loss and injury. To reduce the risk, considerations should be given to the fire resistance of building structures, the topography of property and the nature of and proximity to nearby brush, trees and vegetation. Safety considerations include, but are not limited to: 

Protection and Preparation

Create safety zones around structures.

  • Maintain a clear space free of brush, trees, grasses of at least 100 feet, preferably 200 feet, between the structures and natural growth.
  • If you live on a hill, extend the zone on the downhill side. Fire spreads rapidly uphill.
  • Properly maintain or avoid ornamental plants known or thought to be high hazard combustible plants.
  • Keep outside storage of flammable liquids, gases, and hazardous materials at least 100 feet from the buildings. Preferably, maintain them within a fire rated safety storage locker.

Maximize fire resistance through construction/ building materials. (At time of new construction, remodeling, or through retrofitting)

  • Consider exterior mounted fire sprinklers to protect the roof, walls and windows of the buildings.
  • Install noncombustible roofing and siding materials.
  • Replace plain glazing with fire-rated glass, or provide fire shutters.
  • Cover house vents with wire mesh, to deter flaming debris from entering.
  • Install spark arrestors on chimneys. 

Prepare for water storage.

  • Develop an available water supply; or
  • Provide for fire protection hand lines and fire fighting water supplies.
  • Keep fuel-powered pumps fueled. Test periodically.

Other considerations – General

  • Make an inventory of property and furnishings. Use Travelers Inventory form in left margin.
  • Keep important papers, data and an inventory of your property and furnishings in a safe location offsite or fire-resistant rated safe.
  • Have emergency/fire department telephone numbers readily available.
  • Maintain building accessibility for fire department equipment.

Other Considerations – Business

  • Have a continuity plan with alternative arrangements for continuing critical operations. See Risk Control's Plan Ahead page.

Find more topics to help protect your business.