Fire season seems to get worse every year, with more wildfires cropping up and causing more significant amounts of property damage. As climate change continues to accelerate, even areas with historically low risk of fire are experiencing larger and worse wildfires. People who own homes and commercial real estate should prioritize wildfire mitigation to reduce the risk of fire damage.
If you’re concerned about wildfires, now is the time to prepare your property for the next fire season. Here’s what you need to know about how wildfires can damage your property and the four biggest risk factors that make structures vulnerable to fires.
Impact of Wildfire on Homes and Properties
Wildfires are one of the most dangerous natural disasters in the world. They are immediately deadly in ways that storms, earthquakes, and floods typically aren’t. They’re also unpredictable, as a minor fire can suddenly become a roaring inferno if the wind shifts slightly. They can be caused by a stray spark, a lightning strike, or arson, so there’s no way for officials to predict where the next fire will appear with any confidence.
People caught in these blazes often die from their burns or smoke inhalation. Even if there are firefighters on the scene to rescue people, these unpredictable, deadly fires can completely destroy homes, businesses, and agricultural fields in minutes. Even if the firefighters manage to protect structures, there is often significant smoke and water damage. The only way to prevent this damage if wildfires begin nearby is by making a property as fire-resistant as possible.
Four Highest Risk Factors for Property Damage
To make your property fire-resistant, you must address common risk factors that allow flames to spread. Below are four of the most dangerous issues that put locations at greater risk of destruction during fire season.
1. Overgrown or Overcrowded Grounds
The single biggest risk to structures during wildfire season is an overgrown or overcrowded yard. Vegetation, wood piles, lawn ornaments, or other flammable objects in your yard give the flames a way to spread to your home.
Fire requires fuel to spread. If there’s nothing for a fire to burn, it will eventually die out on its own. While you can’t control the conditions surrounding your land, you can control what’s on your own property by keeping flammable objects to a minimum.
At a minimum, create a 30-50 foot “safety zone” around each structure on your property. In this area, keep vegetation to a minimum. For instance, hardscape your yard or use desert plants rather than maintaining a lawn and put away tools and yard equipment after you use them. Store all flammable objects, including gas cans, grills, and wood piles outside this safety area. This may prevent the fire from reaching your home or a stray spark causing a blaze on your property.
2. Old Structures
Many older structures are made of flammable materials that are at higher risk in wildfires. For example, many older properties include wood sheds or homes with wooden or plastic siding. These structures are prime fuel for a fire. If your property includes older buildings, you may need to take more precautions to keep it safe.
It’s considered best practice to create a 100-foot safety zone around these flammable structures. Keep dry or oily vegetation like pine trees or grass to a minimum in this area. This keeps the fire from getting close enough to throw sparks at the building and potentially set it alight.
Don’t just rely on safety zones, though. Consider remodeling flammable structures with more fire-resistant materials like brick or stone cladding and slate or metal roofs. If that’s not a possibility, treat them with flame retardants. However, these treatments are not permanent, so make sure you regularly retreat each structure to ensure it’s as safe as possible.
Structures at the top of a hill are at the most significant risk during a wildfire. Fires spread more quickly uphill because of their demand for oxygen. Smoke from a fire is heavier than oxygen, so it slows the spread on downward slopes by reducing the amount of oxygen the fire needs to burn. On the other hand, uphill slopes allow fires to outrace their own smoke and move extremely quickly. Furthermore, sparks tend to rise. In combination, this means higher structures are in more danger.
If your property is at the top of a slope, you may need to extend your safety zone several hundred feet downhill. Ideally, remove flammable objects and vegetation from the lowest part of your property up to the structures you want to protect. The steeper the hill, the longer the safety zone must be to ensure a strong wind doesn’t help the fire leap the gap.
4. Open Eaves, Overhangs, and Decks
If you’ve developed safety zones around your property, it’s time to focus on the structures themselves. The most significant risks for most buildings are open eaves, decks, porches, overhangs, and other extended structures. These locations extend over the flames, trapping heat and sparks that can cause them to ignite.
A simple way to prevent this is by enclosing these exterior features. Clear the area under your porch or deck, then close it off with flame-resistant materials like brick or stone walls. You can do the same with your eaves, using metal sheeting to protect your roof and direct heat away from your home.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
A wildfire can wipe out everything you own. Don’t wait to protect your property from potential fire risks. The sooner you take protective actions like developing safety zones and enclosing overhanging structures, the more likely it is that your property will escape a wildfire with minimal damage.
If you’ve already suffered property damage after a fire and your insurance company isn’t helping, reach out to the Professional Law Group. Our team of expert insurance attorneys will help you get the funds you need to rebuild and recover from the blaze. Get in touch today to learn how we can help you fight for the insurance funds you’re owed to build back better.