Wildfire Prevention Starts With YOU!
Although unpredictable in nature, nearly nine of ten wildfires are human caused. This means that wildfire prevention is largely in our hands. An awareness to changing weather patterns and fire restrictions, coupled with taking proactive measures around your property can make the biggest difference. In Montana, over 60% of wildfires are human caused, with the primary ignition sources being debris burning, campfires, equipment and vehicles. According to a recent study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the number of homes lost in wildfires per year has increased by 163% and wildfires now cost the U.S. an estimated $63 billion to $285 billion per year in losses. The Association also notes that nearly 45 million homes border or intermingle with wildlands, placing them at a greater risk of loss.
As an electric cooperative serving predominantly rural communities, many of our members reside in or near heavily wooded areas. This means your proactiveness and preparation are incredibly important when it comes to wildfire safety. Montana DNRC studies show that as many as 80% of homes lost to wildland fire could have been saved if their owners had followed a few simple fire-safe practices. I encourage you to create a defensible space around your property to protect your home or business, as well as the firefighters working to extinguish a potential fire.
Firewise yards are created with zones of grass, rock, or evergreen ground cover close to the home or facility, which greatly reduces fuel sources for a fire. Not only that, but NFPA has a complete Firewise Program with recommendations for landowners to follow. I will touch on ways to reduce fire risk in and around your home:
- Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
- Remove dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch, and within 30 feet of the house.
- Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh (no larger than 1/8”) to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
- Store flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks, etc.) more than 30 ft from your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
- Keep trees and shrubs pruned 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
- Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfires.
- Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger.
- Inspect shingles or roof tiles. Replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration.
- Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home.
- Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry.
- Identify your home and neighborhood with legible and clearly marked street names and numbers so emergency vehicles can find the location of the emergency quickly.
Learn more about how to protect your home and property at www.firewise.org.