Firesmart Spring Cleaning

This year when you’re doing spring cleaning around your home, cabin, and outbuildings, look a little closer than the Pre-Fire Season Checklist we posted in March.

Here are a few suggestions:

Over the winter, did your vehicle fleet migrate to near—or even under—your structures? That includes the thirty-year-old family heirloom Skidoo that hasn’t turned a crank since the President’s name was Bush. If you “need” to keep it, drag it to a corner outside of the 30-foot ignition zone from all buildings.

Did you get tired of trudging through the snow to the firewood pile, and move it to the porch or carport? Putting it all back outside the 30-foot ignition zone from buildings before fire season is good.

Are you a hoarder? Many of us have stashes of “things” we have saved because we “might need them someday.” While this is not quite the same as the folks you have heard about who have filled their homes from floor to ceiling with newspapers, cardboard boxes of trash, or anything else, it is a form of hoarding. Look at your various collections of used tires, auto parts, and building materials, and think about whether they fill a realistic future need. If they do, take steps to remove at least the flammable items to outside the 30-foot zone of all buildings, or inside of a closed Firewise structure.

Are your outbuildings still weather-tight? Broken windows and gaps around the doors are all potential ember traps during fire season.

Do you have trees that need pruning to meet Firewise recommendations? You shouldn’t prune live limbs until fall, but spring is a good time to evaluate your trees. You can remove dead limbs anytime, but especially when you’re energized for spring cleaning.

Do you have a need for a burn pile this year? Stay tuned. Our next post will have some tips and reminders about piling and burning.

Get the Scoop on Fire Weather

Get up-to-date information from the Riverton office of the National Weather Service on fire weather in our area.

The meteorologists there have put together a PDF of climate forecasts for the next three months. You can download it here.

They also have a great page where you can see fire weather planning forecasts for YOUR specific location and fire zone.  That’s available at www.weather.gov/riw/fire.

Many, if not most, of the fires our departments have seen recently have been controlled burns that got out of control. If you are planning to burn, check the weather and let the local dispatch know. Help keep your home and your neighbors’ homes safe this spring and summer.

Hardening Your Home – Some Reminders

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

Flying embers can destroy homes up to a mile from a wildfire. Here are some things you can do to harden your home and make it more fire resistant.

NOTE: We’ve updated this post to reflect current thinking: Vent mesh should have openings no larger than 1/8-inch to prevent embers from entering.

Roof: The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. Build your roof or re-roof with materials such as composition, metal, or tile. Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching.

Vents: Vents on homes create openings for flying embers. Cover all vent openings with metal mesh with openings no larger than 1/8-inch; it won’t melt and burn. Protect vents in eaves or cornices with baffles to block embers (mesh is not enough).

Eaves and Soffits: Eaves and soffits should be protected with ignition-resistant or non-combustible materials.

Windows: Heat from a wildfire can cause windows to break, allowing burning embers inside the house even before the home ignites. Large windows are the most vulnerable. Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breakage in a fire. Consider limiting the size and number of windows that face areas of vegetation.

Walls: Wood products, such as boards, panels or shingles, are common siding materials; however, they are combustible and not good choices for fire-prone areas. Build or remodel your walls with ignition resistant building materials, such as stucco, fiber cement, wall siding, fire retardant, treated wood, or other approved materials. Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.

Decks: Surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant, non-combustible, or other approved materials. Ensure that all combustible items are removed from underneath your deck.

Rain Gutters: Screen or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris.

Patio Cover: Use the same ignition-resistant materials for patio coverings as a roof.

Chimney: Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-combustible screen. Use metal screen material with openings no smaller than 3/8-inch and no larger than 1/2-inch to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.

Garage: Have fire extinguisher, shovel, rake, and bucket available for fire emergencies. Weather strip around and under the garage door to prevent embers from blowing in. Store all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.

Fences: Consider using ignition-resistant or non-combustible fence materials to protect your home during a wildfire.

Driveways and Access Roads: Driveways should be built and maintained in to allow fire and emergency vehicles to reach your home. Consider maintaining access roads with a minimum of 10 feet of clearance on either side, allowing for two-way traffic. All gates should open inward and be wide enough to for emergency equipment. Trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass.

Address: Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road or street.

Water Supply: Consider having multiple garden hoses long enough to reach all of your home and other structures. If you have a pool or well, consider getting a pump.

Don’t forget our Firesmart Workshop on May 6. We will have experts and handouts on this and other topics. More information here.

Be Ember Aware!

Credit: Image by Valter Cirillo from Pixabay

During a wildfire, thousands of embers can rain down on your roof and pelt the side of your home like hail during a storm. If these embers become lodged in something easily ignited that is on or near your house, it could burn. Common materials that become embers during a wildfire include pine cones, branches, tree bark, and wooden shingles.

Embers coming in contact with flammable material is the major reason homes are destroyed during a wildfire. Depending on fire intensity, wind speed, and the size of materials that are burning, embers can be carried more than a mile ahead of the fire. Consequently, even homes or neighborhoods located blocks or miles away from the actual flame front are vulnerable to ignition and complete destruction.

By being aware and taking action ahead of time, a homeowner can substantially reduce the ember threat by addressing the 22 items on the list and graphic below.

Image source: http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2009/fs0905.pdf

Awareness Checklist:

1. Wood roof?
2. Roof openings?
3. Roof debris – leaves and branches?
4. Skylights open?
5. Spark arrestor screen in place?
6. Windows broken or open?
7. Vents screened?
8. Rain gutters clean?
9. Siding intact?
10. Woodpiles 30’ from building?
11. Patio furniture combustible?
12. Deck boards sound and intact?
13. Deck debris — ignitables on deck?
14. Porch and accessories — combustibles?
15. Under deck enclosed? Woody debris?
16. Flower boxes — dried plant material?
17. Eaves — accumulated leaves, needles?
18. Flowerbeds — combustible mulch?
19. Vehicles — windows closed?
20. Garage door — closed?
21. Garbage cans — covered?
22. Wooden Fences — sound, detached?

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