7 Tips For Keeping Your Home and Garden Safe From Wildfires

defensible-space-3

British Columbians have been hit with an early wildfire season and we’ve all been affected by it. We all hope that everyone in the immediate wildfire areas is staying safe and that they are taking care of their loved ones during this difficult time.

Even if you don’t live in the areas that have been hardest hit by wildfires, you have smelled the residual smoke that engulfed the Lower Mainland for a couple of days recently. Wildfires need to be taken seriously as they have devastated many BC areas and left many families homeless.

If you live or are moving near the edges of wilderness, meaning heavily wooded and forested areas, you need to be mindful of the potential wildfires. Even if you’re in a subdivision and you think you are protected, you might not be. If you can see woods, forests, open country and such, your home may be at risk.

There is, however, something you can do to protect (as much as possible) your home if the worst should happen. Here are __ tips to keep your home and garden as protected as possible.

  1. Always speak with your home insurance broker to find out if your home’s policy covers you in case of wildfires and if it doesn’t request extra coverage. The last thing you want to worry about during these times is whether you’ll be covered for structural damage.
  2. If you are planting a garden, speak with your local nursery about native and fire-resistant plants and vegetation that you can put around your home. This will help reduce the risk of shrubs and plants catching fire during these times. Ensure the bark and mulch you are using is (of course) non-combustible as well.
  3. Keep any shrubs and trees a minimum of 10 feet from each other, and if you have many of these in your garden or surrounding your home, consider removing some of them. A safe distance means that if one catches fire, it might not jump as readily to a nearby tree or shrub. Tree branches shouldn’t be less than 6 feel off the ground so that if the ground is on fire, the fire won’t be as quick to jump to the top branches. And any dead branches or branches that are overhanging onto your patio, deck or roof should also be cut down for the same reason — fire travels by jumping, so stop it in its path.
  4. If you have a deck, make sure you don’t keep any combustable or flammable items under your deck. If there is any space or room underneath your deck or balcony, be sure to close off the space with either a mesh protective screen or other fire-resistant materials so that nothing can get under your deck.
  5. Your lawn should be kept short and well watered, especially the immediate border surrounding your home (about 30-40 foot area). Because municipal governments often instill a water control when it’s particularly dry, you might want to consider setting up a rain barrel in the fall and winter months. Capturing rain water (with these rain barrels) will mean you can reuse this water during the dry months. Remember that a well-watered lawn is a good barrier to fires.
  6. Under these circumstances, it’s imperative that your roof and gutters are kept free of debris, dry leaves, pine needles and other items that might easily catch fire during times of wildfires. An ember from a nearby forest fire can travel up to a mile before setting fire to something else. If you don’t feel comfortable clearing your roof and gutters, there are always professionals who can help maintain these high spaces to help keep your home clean and safe.
  7. If you have a gas BBQ, or any propane or butane tanks in your yard, be sure to move them as far away from your home itself as possible. This will ensure that if they do catch fire, they won’t blow up your home. Similarly if you have firewood, ensure to move it away from your home. A minimum of 30 to 40 feet away (preferably downhill) from major structures is recommended.