Wildfires spread quickly. The sun’s heat or any small spark can start a fire that quickly burns through neighborhoods. With the recent dry weather, much of the brush that surrounds housing is dried out and is easily set alight. Large areas of trees and brush are fuel for a fire and sadly, there are commercial buildings, homes, and neighborhoods that may fall along the path of a fire’s destruction.
5 million acres burn each year in the United States and the damage caused costs millions. Not to mention the devastation to families and business owners. Depending on the wind, the average fire can spread up to 14 miles per hour and can change direction quickly. Breezes and winds can throw embers long distances threatening any area within miles of ablaze. And this could be your house. There are three main factors that will impact how a fire moves and whether your property will be in danger or not.
This includes brush, trees, and grass and the amount of available fuel in an area is called the fuel load for a fire. Smaller fuel loads cause slow-burning fires that have low intensity, but when there is a lot of fuel, a fire will burn hot and quick and spread faster. To reduce the amount of fuel around your property you should create a 30-foot safety zone around your house by:
- Use less flammable vegetation
- Remove plant debris (broken limbs and fallen leaves)
- Remove climbing vines attached to your walls
- Regularly cut grass and prune trees
The temperature has a direct impact on wildfires because heat is one of the key factors in the fire triangle. Brush or fuel receives heat from the sun which dries and as the temperature heats up, these fuels ignite. Wildfires typically start in the afternoon when temperatures are highest. The wind is an additional factor that influences fires but it is unpredictable. Winds give fire oxygen to burn which can accelerate fires faster across the land. Wind also throw embers which can cause spot fires to develop in additional locations. You cannot control the weather but you can be aware of it. Low humidity indicates drier ground and more fuel available for fires.
How the land is laid out can affect whether fire burns or is halted. Fires move quicker uphill so the slope is important. The smoke rises uphill which heats the land ahead of fire making it easier to ignite. If you live on a hill, then it is important to create safety zones as well as secondary zones to ensure there is minimal fuel around your building. By interrupting the fuel source, a fire cannot burn.
Along with taking these steps to protect your property from a wildfire, you should also have an evacuation plan in place. Make sure you know everything that you will need to take with you should you have to leave. You also need to have several escape routes as there is no way to predict where a fire will go. Being prepared and knowing what can influence a fire is the best way to protect your property.