Protect your home from urban brush fires

June 6, 2013

By Staff

NEW — 7 a.m. June 6, 2013

As the weather becomes warmer, there is potential for increased brush fires along highways, roadways, neighborhood greenbelts and in park settings.

The urban wildfires we typically hear about on the radio or watch on television are almost always located in other parts of the country or state, but they can happen in Western Washington, according to a news release from Eastside Fire & Rescue.

Protecting your home from urban brush fires is your responsibility. You need to consider the fire resistance of your home, the topography of your property and the nature of the vegetation close by. You can help protect your home by following the suggestions on this checklist:

  • Rake leaves, dead limbs, and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation and remove vines from walls of the home, and remove rubbish from around the structure.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground. Thinning is simply reducing the density of vegetation between trees in your yard. Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and barbecues. Place a screen over the grill using nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than 1/4 inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and other flammable materials.
  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for two days, and then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans that can be purchased at your local hardware store. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack firewood at least 50 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet. Use only UL-approved wood-burning devices.
  • Create a 30-foot safety zone around your home. Keep the volume of vegetation in this zone to a minimum. The greater the distance between your home and vegetation, the greater the protection.
  • Remove debris on rooftops, in gutters, under sun decks and porches.
  • Enclose eaves and overhangs. Like porches and balconies, eaves trap the heat rising along the exterior siding. Enclose all eaves to reduce the hazard.

Determine your family’s ability to respond to an urban wildfire. Are roads leading to your property clearly marked? Are roads wide enough to allow firefighting equipment to get through? Is your home number visible from the roadside?

Evacuation may be the only way to protect your family in an urban wildfire. Know where to go and what to bring with you. You should plan several escape routes in case roads are blocked by fire.

Learn more about how to plan for a community wildfire protection plan here. With a little education and a bit of yard cleanup, you can help protect your home against an urban wildfire.


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