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A burning need for better safety

July/Aug. 2009 California Country magazine

It's never too early to prepare for a wildfire.



In the event of an extreme wildfire event, fire officials may not be able to protect your property, so what you do now can make a difference for your home, outbuildings, farm implements and farm equipment.

An inside-out challenge
According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), one-third of U.S. homes are located in what fire safety officials call the wildland urban interface, areas that combine housing developments with the natural topography of trees and vegetation. IBHS research offers the following observations:

  • Homes with the highest risk of burning are on the perimeter of a housing development adjacent to wildlands.
  • Wind-blown embers can travel 1 mile or more, and it’s estimated that up to 50 percent of homes burn as a result of embers rather than direct flames.
  • Homes along the inner streets of a development built fewer than 15 feet apart are at high risk from the spread of flames and embers.

IBHS offers helpful information on its Web site, www.disastersafety.org, regarding building and remodeling strategies to increase your likelihood of avoiding or minimizing wildfire damage.

Know what weaknesses you’ve got
Your property is at an increased risk for fire damage if these situations exist.

  • Flammable roof material such as wood shakes and shingles, for example
  • Areas of the structure where embers can collect – e.g. leafy gutters, edges of barrel tile roofs, corners of outbuildings
  • Any fuel that brings flames within 5 feet of a structure or farm implement are a hazard – e.g. dried grass, flammable plants, wood piles
  • Any wood structure connected to your house, such as a wood deck
  • Restricted access to your property by fire personnel – narrow lane, tight turnaround

Keep it clean and clear
Of course, your home can't be destroyed by a wildfire if the wildfire never reaches it. These steps can increase the chances of avoiding the flames altogether.

  • Create a “defensible space” by removing all dry grass, brush, trees and dead leaves within at least 100 feet from your home.
  • Till the dirt around your outbuildings and farm implements so dry grass does not grow up to them.
  • Plant native, fire-resistive vegetation around your home whenever possible.
  • Space trees and shrubs at least 10 feet apart. Reduce the number of trees in heavily wooded areas.
  • For trees taller than 18 feet, prune lower branches within 6 feet of the ground to keep ground fires from spreading into treetops.
  • Remove all dead branches overhanging your roof and all branches within 15 feet of chimneys.
  • Enclose the underside of balconies and aboveground decks with fire-resistant or noncombustible materials.
  • Store firewood at least 30 feet downhill from any structure.
  • Avoid using bark and wood-chip mulch.

Helpful resources
This information is meant to help you make decisions that may reduce your risk of injury and property damage. There are many Web sites with information regarding wildfires. We recommend reviewing the following key sites or consulting with your local fire department for additional information.

Contributed by Allied Insurance, part of the Nationwide family of companies. To learn more about quality insurance coverages and Farm Bureau discounts, visit www.nationwide.com/CFBF, contact a local agent representing Nationwide Insurance or Allied Insurance or contact John Valentine at 916-924-4393 or valentj4@nationwide.com.


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