Wildfires can devastate a community and take your home, belongings and even your family. During the 2020 wildfire season in Washington state, between March and September, over 713,000 acres burned, 377 buildings were destroyed including 181 homes and one death occurred. The Washington State 2020 fire season had more individual fires than any other year.
Will 2021 be any better? In the Northwest, predictions for the 2021 fire season include a low risk of large fires until July and then somewhat low or normal potential is expected throughout the rest of the fire season which is usually through November each year. However, we cannot accurately predict nature’s prevalence for fire or control man made burning which can get out of control quickly, so being prepared as you approach fire season is the best bet.
If your home happens to be in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), a transition zone of land between wildland and human development, you need to be especially careful and protect your home by creating a defensible landscape area that will not readily transmit fire to your home. You can do this by clearing out combustible brush, needles, twigs, cones, bark and small branches within 100 feet on all sides of your house and eliminating or trimming trees, as well as eliminating bushes and any extra vegetation from around your home’s perimeter. If you have too much vegetation around your home, a wildfire can transition from nearby vegetation to your porch, walls, and roof. Replacing all home eaves and vent openings to make sure they are properly screened using 1/8” or smaller metal mesh is recommended as these areas can be a target for embers to fly in and start a fire from the inside.
You will also want to clean and maintain your gutters by removing debris that can catch on fire. Using fireproof fabrics on your deck furniture will also slow down a fire from rapidly transitioning to the house from the deck.
Other important items include using window fabrics with heat resistant products, tempered glass in windows, and installing outside non-combustible shutters that can be closed in an emergency.
Additionally, using roofing materials that consist of asphalt shingles, tile or steel and siding materials consisting of fiber cement or stucco is also recommended.
Lastly, join a FIREWISE Community, request a free wildfire home assessment to assess and identify your risk and check with your local fire department for defensible space ordinances.
Sign up for a free wildfire home assessment and obtain additional information to protect your home at the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition website at wwrld.us/chumstick as well as other defensible space and home protection tips at wwrld.us/nfpa.
Corrine Hoffman is the Executive Director of the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition. Barbara Carrillo is an independent writer and marketing contractor and formerly with the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board.