As you read this article, thousands of wildfires are burning around the globe. Wildfires are active in Indonesia, Spain, the United States, Mexico, China, Germany, Algeria, Peru, Australia, South Africa and numerous other countries as this interactive Global Forest Watch Fires map shows.
Wildfires are defined as uncontrolled blazes fueled by weather, wind and dry underbrush. Sadly, four out of every five wildfires are started by people.
In the United States alone, nationalgeorgraphic.com reports that more than 100,000 wildfires, also called wildland fires or forest fires, clear an average of 4 to 5 million acres of land each year. In recent years, that number has been larger as wildfires have burned close to 9 million acres of land. A wildfire moves at speeds of close to 14 miles an hour and consumes everything in its path—trees, brush, homes, animals and even people.
Although you can’t control high winds and other natural factors contributing to the spread of wildfires, there are some things you can do to help decrease the chance of your home catching fire.
Before a wildfire threatens the area in which you live:
- Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This helps prevent embers from igniting your home.
- Remove dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch, and within 10 feet of the house.
- Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
- Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
- Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
- Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
- Inspect shingles or roof tiles, and replace or repair those that are loose or missing.
- Cover exterior attic vents with metal mesh to help prevent sparks from entering the home.
- Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry.
- Learn more about how to protect your home and property at firewise.org.
Tips courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)