We tend to think of wildfires as something that affects the Western States, wildfires can, and do, strike in any part of the country.  Many artists live in idylic rural settings that, when conditions are dry, present a danger from wildfires.  And even if you live in an area that is not particularly prone to wildfires, and in a more urban setting, a fire in an adjacent building can present many of the same risks.

Here are some tips on minimizing your risks from wildfires: 

Determine Your Risk

  • Find out about history of wildfires in your area

  • A drought or long period without rain increases risk of wildfire

  • Is your property clearly marked and accessible to firefighting equipment?

Practice Fire Safety

  • Do not build fires near buildings or combustible structures

  • Do not build fires during dry periods

  • Do not leave a fire, even a lit cigarette, unattended

  • Always have a means to extinguish a fire quickly and completely

  • Store combustible liquids in approved safety containers away from building

  • Grill carefully and avoid using grill at high-risk times. Keep gas grill and propane bottles at least 15 feet from building

Create fire defense zones to keep a fire from spreading to your business or home.

  • Remove combustible objects and materials within 30 feet from the structure

  • Use noncombustible materials such as rock mulch, brick, concrete in this area - avoid combustible mulches like wood chips in this area

  • Select and maintain plantings in this area carefully so you do not create a path for fire

  • Create a buffer zone within 100 feet (or greater-especially if on a slope) of structure

    • Remove dead branches and vegetationThin trees and plantings to keep fire from spreading from tree to tree

    • Keep combustible structures such as fences and trellises away from building  

Take Precautions to Protect Your Building

  • Look for areas that can accumulate vegetative debris that could ignite. Especially vulnerable are areas where there is an adjacent combustible surface such as where wooden siding intersects a roofline, or debris in gutters that could ignite fascia. Keep roofs and gutters clear of debris, and look into ways to protect vulnerable areas

  • Roof vents or other openings where embers could lodge are also a place where fire can enter the structure

  • Determine your roof risk. Roofing systems are rated A, B, C or unrated, with A being the most fire resistant. Your local fire department can help you determine the rating of your current roof. If you are replacing a roof soon, investigate options to upgrade to Class A

    • Keep windows and doors closed if you are near a wildfire

    • Dual pane windows of tempered glass provide greater resistance to shattering from heat than single-pane windows

    • Metal mesh window screens provide some degree of protection to glass and can prevent embers, but not flames, from entering

    • Foundation, gable, soffit, and gable vents provide a point of entry for fire and embers, especially if vegetative debris can collect at these points. Combustible materials inside the structure can ignite and burn the building from the inside out

    • Install 1/8' metal mesh screens over vents and keep free of debris

    • Make vent covers in advance from 1/2" plywood or thin metal plate, so they can be installed quickly if a wildfire threatens

    • If replacing vents, consider vents that meet new California fire codes

    • Are these constructed of wood or other combustible materials? If building consider materials that have been treated for fire resistance

    • Avoid storing combustible materials on or under deck

    • Consider enclosing the structure with fire resistant siding

    • Manage vegetation at perimeter of deck to minimize the risk of combustion

    • Install spark-arresting caps on fireplace and woodstove chimneys

    Wildfire Warning

    Here are some tips from  www.firewise.org to follow if your business or home is threatened by wildfire:

    1. Call for help

    2. Close all windows and door openings

    3. Have tools (shovel, rake) and water (long hose and bulk water containers) ready

    4. Dress to protect yourself (cotton or wool clothing, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, gloves, respirator or handkerchief to protect face (the CDC says that dust masks available at hardware stores will not protect your lungs from smoke.  A properly worn "N95" mask will offer some protection)

    5. Wet down roof - position ladder to do this on opposite side from fire

    6. Turn off natural gas or propane at the tank or meter

    7. Back vehicles into garage and close door.  If no garage space position for easy evacuation

    8. Evacuate to a safe location if it becomes necessary


    After a Wildfire:

    • Stay clear of downed power lines and report them to officials

    • Do not enter your building until fire officials say it is safe

    • Exercise caution when entering burned areas. Smoldering embers may burst into flames without warning

    • Wear proper protective gear to protect against heat and dust. Remember that many items in the fire may have left toxic residue

    • Handle potentially hazardous materials carefully and dispose of carefully

    • Wet debris down to avoid breathing dust particles 



    DisasterSafety.org: How to Reduce Risks from a Wildfire and downloadable wildfire retrofit guides for different parts of the country.

    Firewise.org has good information on wildfire protection for property owners including plant listings for Firewise landscaping for various parts of the country.

    The Wildland Fire Assessment System (WFAS) of the National Forestry Service has a variety of maps to help assess the danger of wildfires including an automatically updating data map in Google Earth format and a map that shows the probability of lightning-induced fires.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has wildfire health tips.  CDC also has excellent tips for the selection and use of respirators including a downloadable PDF.

    Red Cross wildfire safety checklist.



    Top Photo: Bureau of Land Management News Photo, All Other Photos: FEMA News Photo