California wildfire

Firewise Tips Minimize Wildland Dangers

Raging wildland fires in the Los Angeles area have been the biggest news story of the past week, with numerous homes lost to the flames and thousands forced to evacuate to safer areas. The U.S. Forest Service's National Incident Information Center on Monday listed 17 new fires in Southern California and three large fires still uncontained there, with the Freeway Complex fire four miles each of Anaheim being fought by 3,699 personnel and occupying 23,722 acres.

The national Firewise Communities program offers tips for protecting property against wildland fires, starting with the initial decision to buy or build a home in a rural area. (The program, a multi-agency effort designed to reach beyond the fire service by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, and others to protect lives, property, and natural resources from wildland fires, is part of the National Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Program.)

The tips include these:

  • If you're moving to a new home in a rural area or buying land to build a new home, do a thorough outdoor fire safety check before you proceed. Locate the home on the lot with adequate setback from downhill slopes. Wildland fire travels uphill rapidly; make sure that your home won't be in its path.


  • Make sure the area has adequate public fire protection available. Will emergency vehicles have easy access to the house? Is your address clearly visible from the road? Will firefighters have access to a water supply to put out a fire?
  • Make your roof fire safe. Untreated wood shake roofs are the leading cause of wildland fire losses. A roof made of fire-resistant or non-combustible materials can make your home safer. Also, use non-combustible (metal) screening in eave vents and for windows.
  • Sweep gutters, roofs, and eaves regularly and remove dead branches from around or near chimneys. Burning firebrands or embers can collect in the same space that leaves and pine needles do. Remove leaves and needles from cellar window walls and from corners and crevices around the outside of your home.
  • Create a survivable space, safety zone, or "fire break" around your home. Flammable (highly resinous) plants, woodpiles, and debris should be kept as far away from the exterior walls of the home as possible. Fences, decks, or outbuildings connected to the house must be considered part of the house; construct them out of non-combustible materials and keep them clear of pine needles, dead leaves, etc.

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