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Wildfire season is here. Every year, blazes started for a variety of reasons scorch hundreds, if not thousands, of acres around the country.
Brush fires, or wildfires, are one of the most dangerous types of blazes for firefighters to battle – and are especially dangerous for homesteaders and off-gridders in rural locations.
As previously noted by Off The Grid News, fire preparedness is perhaps one of the most neglected areas of homesteading families. Fires can double in size approximately once every 30 seconds to a minute. Dry brush and trees will catch fire quickly. Minor wind fluctuation can take you from a point of safety into the path of rapidly encroaching flames in a matter of seconds.
Here are 15 tips for protecting your home from wildfires:
1. Take stock of flammable materials around the home and auxiliary structures. Properly dispose of any necessary items in a timely manner. There are three categories of flammable materials — Class A, B and C. Class A flammables are common combustibles such as wood, paper and plastic. Class B items include grease and flammable liquids. Class C blazes are basically electrical fires which often stem from either Class A or B flammables. Understanding what types of fire you are most likely to be faced with is extremely important from a preparedness aspect.
2. Remove tree branches extending within 10 feet of the opening of a chimney.
3. Clear branches, leaves and pine needles out of gutters and off roof surfaces on a regular basis.
4. Wet the roof and sides of the home down with a garden hose during dry periods.
5. Place a screen comprised of non-flammable material over stovepipes or chimneys. The openings in the screen should not exceed half an inch, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
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6. Do not store hay bales against one another. Combustion from heat or flying embers is common. Set round hay bales at least a foot a part and do not stack more than several square bales on or next to one another. If a wildfire is near, wet the bales with a water hose and separate if time allows. Storing bales inside a barn may be convenient, but it could ultimately cost you both the barn and the livestock huddled inside.
7. Think twice before placing pine shrubs next to the home, because they catch fire quickly when dry. Think brittle Christmas trees with the lights left on too long. Skip attractiveness in favor of fire prevention when it comes to deciding what will be planted near the home and other structures.
8. Thin out underbrush near the vicinity of the home. If you own goats (or land tortoises like I do), this chore can be easily taken care of without you being forced to swing a sickle.
9. Trim tree branches so they are at least 15 feet off the ground.
10. Create a fuel break around all shelters on the property.
11. Dispose of fireplace or woodburning stove and charcoal briquettes only after they have been soaked for at least an hour in a metal bucket full of cold water.
12. Never store gasoline near the home, and only keep the fuel in approved containers. If a fire does appear to be approaching your home, quickly move the gasoline out of its storage shed and dispose of the fuel if at all possible.
13. Propane tanks should also be stored far away from the home and barn. Make sure that flammable vegetation is not present near the storage location. Moving propane tanks when a fire threat is present is also advised. Make sure tank valves remain in the off position.
14. Watch where you place firewood, which is nothing more than attractive kindling for a wildfire. Do not make a wood pile near the home or other structures. Wet the wood down thoroughly if a blaze nears the property. It would be a shame to lose the wood or be faced with a long wait for it to dry out, but once again, preserving the home is the only goal that matters during such an emergency.
15. Take a basic firefighting course to learn the skills necessary to protect both your home and your family during an emergency. If disaster precedes the wildfire, calling the fire department may very well not be an option. Used firefighter gear can often be found at a greatly reduced cost at fire department fundraisers and at online auction sites. Although taking a basic course at a local community college may not mean you will have all the tools and abilities necessary to stand your ground and defend your home, the knowledge may help you prevent a small fire from becoming a big one and give your loved ones the precious minutes necessary to escape the blaze. Rural counties are often served by an entirely volunteer firefighting force and would likely welcome you into the fold – and pay for your training in the process.
What wildfire prevention tips would you add to the list? Tell us in the comments section below.