From the hurricanes that devastated Houston and the Caribbean, to the monsoons that killed more than 1,000 in southeast Asia, 2017 has certainly been a year of extreme weather.
Even within an extreme year, wildfires in 2017 have been particularly devastating to the United States. Regarding the 2017 wildfire year, the Insurance Information Institute has posted the following information:
“2017: From January 1 to November 30, 2017, there were 56,186 wildfires, compared to 60,236 wildfires in the same period in 2016, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About 9.1 million acres were burned in the 2017 period, compared with 5.3 million in 2016. As of November 30, for the year so far, 2017 ranked higher in number of acres burned compared to the 10-year average.
Beginning October 6 and continuing until October 25, eight counties in Northern California were hit by a devastating outbreak of wildfires which led to at least 23 fatalities, burned 245,000 acres and destroyed over 8,700 structures. The California Department of Insurance reported that insurers have incurred more than $9 billion in claims so far from the October fires, $8.4 billion in residential claims, $790 million in commercial property, $96 million in personal and commercial auto, and $110 million from other commercial lines.
In December 2017, the worst wildfire season in the history of modern California took another bad turn, as three major fires in Southern California destroyed more than 200 homes and buildings. The winds that fanned the flames were so strong that state officials issued an unprecedented “purple” wind alert.”
Other areas of North America experienced crushing wildfire seasons as well. According to the news outlet Global News, British Columbia faced its worst fire season in history. The province recorded nearly 900,000 hectares of burnt land in 2017, costing an estimated $315.7 million.
To everyone in fire-prone areas of the country, the stories and statistics that are brought forward, both from recent and ongoing fires, are a constant reminder of the ever-present possibility of a wildfire throughout much of the year. In fact, research shows that the fire season has increased by about 2.5 months since 1970, and that this trend is only supposed to continue. With this in mind, it is always important to remind yourself that there are ways to protect your home from the risk of wildfires.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, you can use the following information to protect your home and community from wildfires:
“Before a wildfire threatens your area…
Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents 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.
Wildfire can spread to tree tops. 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. Replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration.
Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home.
Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry.
In and around your home
Assemble an emergency supply kit and place it in a safe spot. Remember to include important documents, medications and personal identification.
Develop an emergency evacuation plan and practice it with everyone in your home.
Plan two ways out of your neighborhood and designate a meeting place.
Creating an emergency plan
Contact your local planning/zoning office to find out if your home is in a high wildfire risk area, and if there are specific local or county ordinances you should be following.
If you are part of a homeowner association, work with them to identify regulations that incorporate proven preparedness landscaping, home design and building material use.
Talk to your local fire department about how to prepare, when to evacuate, and the response you and your neighbors can expect in the event of a wildfire.
Learn about wildfire risk reduction efforts, including how land management agencies use prescribed fire to manage local landscapes.
Learn how you can make a positive difference in your community.
In your community:
Stay aware of the latest news and updates from your local media and fire department. Get your family, home and pets prepared to evacuate.
Place your emergency supply kit and other valuables in your vehicle.
Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, door mats and potted plants in wooden containers either indoors or as far away from the home, shed and garage as possible.
Close and protect your home’s openings, including attic and basement doors and vents, windows, garage doors and pet doors to prevent embers from penetrating your home.
Connect garden hoses and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water. Firefighters have been known to use the hoses to put out fires on rooftops.
Leave as early as possible, before you’re told to evacuate. Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire, and helps ensure residents’ safety.
During the time a wildfire is in your area…
Continue to listen to news updates for information about the fire. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
Visit /Ready.gov for more information regarding wildfire after an emergency.”
After a wildfire has been contained…