Regardless of what type of winter occurred, certain areas of our country are plagued with fire each year. California and Arizona rank very high year over year in fire damage affecting forests, undeveloped brush land and housing communities.
On average in America, local fire departments respond to 915 brush, grass or forest fires every day – that is around 140,000 per year. So prevalent are the fires today that eight of the costliest fires in U.S. history have occurred in the last two decades alone. So, what can you do to help contain it?
First, know that you don’t have to live next to a wooded or brush area to be a victim. Remember that even if your property isn’t harmed, others will be and, in the end, that equates to higher taxes and insurance payments for all and for years to come. It really is in your best interest to be prevention interested.
Here are some general statistics about fires:
- Brush fires – 41%
- Grass fires – 37%
- Forest, wood, or wildland fires – 10%
- Unclassified – 13%
- 20% are intentionally set.
- 16% begin from hot embers or ashes.
- 14% result from burning debris or waste.
- 14% from high wind.
- 11% from smoking paraphernalia (cigarettes, cigars, etc.).
- 5% from playing with fire.
- 4% from fireworks.
- 4% from lightning.
- 4% from sparks, embers and flames resulting from equipment operation.
- 4% from power or utility lines.
And here are some basic preventative measures, both at home and while traveling :
- Keep matches and lighters away from children.
- Provide safe disposal containers for smoking materials—never on the ground.
- Don’t start a fire outside on dry or windy days.
- Leave the fireworks to the pros!
- When using equipment, minimize sparks or avoid the activity when fire risk is high – this includes lawn mowers.
- Use care when refueling equipment.
- Do not use fuel as an accelerant to burn waste.
- Closely attend any outdoor fire and ensure it is completely extinguished when you leave.
- Keep a hose on hand long enough to reach property boundaries.
- Reduce fuel sources stored in or around your home, from gas to paints and cleaning chemicals.
- Store fuels in approved safety cans.
- Keep all branches and shrubs a minimum of 15 feet away from stove pipes, chimney outlets, grills, and heat sources.
- Keep stacks of firewood at least 10 feet from your home’s structure.
- Clean dead branches, leaves, and brush surrounding your home’s structure regularly.
- Keep your gutter, eaves, and roof clear of leaves and debris.
- Trim back tree branches that hang over your home, raising canopies to 8 feet or higher.
- Trim hedges to a 3-foot maximum.
- Opt for gravel over mulch in garden beds, and slower burning plants.
- Choose non-flammable roofing, and fire-resistant siding, vents, decks/porches, and fences.
- Learn and comply with local fire safety ordinances for outdoor/open air burning, including campfires, fire pits, chimineas, outdoor fireplaces, and grills.
For other tips and the basics on defensible space, visit Firewise.org. You want to live in and visit these beautiful spaces around America, but there are some personal responsibility steps you have to take to protect yourself and others. Remember what Smokey the Bear says, “Only you can prevent fires”.