Wildfires can occur at any time throughout the year, but the potential is always higher during periods with little or no rainfall, which make brush, grass, and trees dry and burn more easily. For many areas, this occurs in summer through fall months, but many western states, such as California, have a year-round wildfire risk. High winds can also contribute to spreading the fire. The community may have a designated wildfire season when the risk is particularly high, so property owners should become familiar and take action well in advance.
Below are tips to share with property owners to be prepared during wildfire season.
Prepare the property
-Create and maintain an area approximately 30 feet away from your property that is free of anything that will burn, such as wood piles, dried leaves, newspapers, brush, and other landscaping.
-From 30 feet to 100 feet – reduce or replace as much of the most flammable vegetation as possible and prune vegetation, create “fuel breaks,” such as driveways, gravel walkways, and lawns.
-Up to 200 feet – work with neighbors to create spaces around the homes where vegetation is thinned to remove underbrush so tall trees do not touch each other for continuous canopies.
-Use fire-resistant materials as much as possible. If making repairs or renovations, consider the safest materials to help protect the home.
-Regularly clean the roof and gutters.
-Connect garden hoses long enough to reach any area of the home and fill garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water.
-Identify a “clean room” within the home that can be closed off from outside. You may consider outfitting this room with a portable air cleaner in case of heavy smoke in other areas of the home. Be sure the tenant is aware of this room’s purpose.
-Make sure fire hydrants are available and accessible and that tenants know how to operate them.
Stay up to date on information in the areas where your properties are located. The FEMA app will send real-time alerts from the National Weather Service. Local alerts are also available through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA). It is important that these alerts are also communicated to the tenant that they affect.
Be sure your tenants are prepared
-Make sure tenants are aware of their wildfire risk, especially if they are not originally from the area.
-Tenants should have an emergency plan in place that is communicated to everyone in the household. This includes knowing evacuation routes and even practicing them, especially with children and pets.
-Know what community shelters are available in the area and any guidelines specific to COVID-19. It may also be advisable to have a package of masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes on hand.
-If community shelters are not available, make a plan with family or friends to shelter in a safer location.
-Have a to-go kit prepared in case a quick evacuation is necessary. It should be kept in an easily accessible spot, or in the trunk of their car. This should include any medications and first aid kit, a three-day supply of non-perishable food, water, flashlight, batteries and cell phone chargers, pet supplies, and some N95 masks in case of heavy smoke.
-Pay attention to alerts and evacuate as soon as possible if instructed.
After the Fire
-Do not return until authorities have deemed it safe to do so.
-Avoid hot ashes, live embers, or smoldering debris.
-When cleaning, wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, work gloves, and thick-soled shoes. Wear protective masks or respirators to avoid breathing in dust particles.
-You and your tenant should communicate about documenting any damage to the property and/or their personal items. Damage should be photographed to submit with insurance reports.
-Communicate with your insurance company as quickly as you can with as much documentation as possible.
Detailed information and resources are available at ready.gov/wildfires