Don’t tempt fate next summer during another crazy wildfire season. FireSmart your home this fall!
We may have survived another wildfire season, but we shouldn’t stop thinking about it just because winter is on the way. In fact, fall and winter are among the best and easiest times to get out ahead and prepare. There are a variety of measures you can take right now to ensure that you FireSmart your home well in advance of a wildfire crisis next year or beyond.
How easily a wildfire can spread
To grow and expand, from the surrounding trees to your home, wildfires need fuel. This includes the vegetation around your home – trees, shrubs, and other surrounding vegetation. It also includes the home itself, if it’s not protected. Some trees pose a greater danger than others. Coniferous trees, for example, such as fir and juniper, are highly flammable. If you have deciduous, or leafy, trees around your home they are far less flammable and don’t pose the same degree of danger.
Did you know? The wind, or even the energy of the fire, can cast embers and other burning debris up to two kilometres ahead of the wildfire’s path. The airborne embers easily fall and ignite the ground and any structures they land upon – including your home.
Just the embers can cause significant damage. And once a building starts to burn, it too can expel embers further onto the property and into your surrounding community.
How to FireSmart your home
Over the past thirty years or so, Natural Resources Canada (NRC) estimates that forest and wildfires have destroyed approximately 2.5 million hectares (the equivalent to 6 million football fields) in Canada each year. The cost in fire suppression resources alone runs about $500 million to $1 billion per year.
That’s why it’s so very important to do what you can to protect your home and property. And when you FireSmart your home, you can increase your property’s fire resistance significantly, helping to reduce the likelihood of wildfire damage and loss.
Given the increasing number of destructive wildfires we can expect throughout BC and our region, there is a need for education. To help inform people about what they can do, FireSmart Canada offers a FREE online course. FireSmart 101 is only one hour of your time and provides a good introduction to the program. It shows us how homeowners and communities can take steps to protect our homes.
In addition to the course, read on for steps you can take this fall and winter to better prepare and protect your property well in advance of what could very well be another record-breaking season for wildfires.
FireSmart your yard – 1.5 – 10 metres from your home
To FireSmart your yard, you begin to explore better choices of grass, plants, shrubs, and other landscaping materials such as mulch. You want to choose those plants and landscape materials that are fire-resistant.
When you have a FireSmart yard, it contains mainly low-profile, fire-resistant plants and shrubs with adequate space between them. Don’t keep wood debris close by and understand that mulch can provide an inviting starting place for a fire.
Try to maintain a ‘non-combustible zone’ around your house that is about 1.5-metres wide of rock, stone, or soil with few or, ideally, no plants or debris.
What are your surroundings?
Examine the vegetation that surrounds your home. Is it fire-resistant or flammable?
What makes a flammable plant?
- aromatic needles or leaves
- oils or resin
- loose, papery or flaky bark
- fine, dry, dead material accumulation
What makes a plant fire-resistant?
- supple, moist leaves
- sap that is water-like and has minimal odour
- doesn’t accumulate a lot of dead or dry vegetation
- minimal sap or resin material
Take a look at your grass? When you keep your lawn short and frequently mowed, it is fire-resistant – shorter than 10 centimetres – and is far less likely to burn with any significant intensity. Dry grass is more flammable, so during water season, keep it well watered. Where ever you can in your yard, reduce the need for irrigation – keep drought-resistant plants.
Do you have a lot of pine needles or bark mulch? Try to keep these materials no closer than 10 metres to your home. They’re very combustible. Rather, choose crushed rock or gravel mulch to reduce the risk of wildfire dramatically.
Also, keep your firewood well away from your home – it’s a serious fire hazard. Keep it tidy and free of bark bits and debris as much as possible.
Examine your trees and shrubs
We all love a treed yard – we want to be surrounded by nature. And a yard with trees can be a FireSmart yard! What kind of trees do you have? Enjoy a green, lush and green yard that is also fire resistant. Here’s how:
Plant leafy (deciduous) trees, such as:
Our area is full of coniferous trees and so are many of our yards. But as much as possible, try to keep them no closer than 10 metres to your home. These trees include:
When coniferous trees ignite as close as 10 metres to your house, the flames but also simply the intensity of the heat can ignite your home.
Be sure that any coniferous trees are well-spaced – at least three metres apart. If a fire moves through the tops of trees, it can easily advance into neighbouring trees. As it moves, it intensifies.
Throughout the fall, clean up any debris thoroughly around your home – highly flammable materials such as branches, dry leaves, and twigs. Remove smaller coniferous trees as they’re highly combustible. In fact, they can offer a ‘ladder’ and allow a fire to move up to the tops of trees.
Prune your trees. Fire moves from the ground and climbs quickly. So also keep debris and dried material cleared from below them. It’s recommended that you prune coniferous trees while they’re dormant, in late winter. Remove any dead branches at the trunk of the tree.
Find out MORE about how you can prepare and protect your home BEFORE wildfire season. Learn how your home and your community can be FireSmart!