Improving Your Odds in Wildfires

Learn how to improve your odds at surviving wildfires by preparing yourself and your home for the possibility.

| April 2018

  • Every year, wildfire destroys thousands of homes, and burns millions of acres.
    Photo by Pixabay/skeeze
  • “Surviving Wildfire” by Linda Masterson helps readers to prepare for the possibility of a wildfire.
    Photo courtesy of PixyJack Press

Surviving Wildfire (PixyJack Press, 2012) by Linda Masterson is a complete guide to preparing yourself and your family to survive wildfires. From what to look for when buying property to evacuation plans, Masterson helps families ensure their safety when this natural disaster strikes. The following excerpt is a guide to improving your odds of survival when at home.

The potential for catastrophic, uncontrollable wildfires grows every year. Fire risk in the WUI and what we can do as a nation to reduce it has of late become a subject of intense scrutiny and study. The amount of information out there is overwhelming. But a couple of simple facts stand out in stark relief. Upwards of 65 percent of all homes now built in the WUI nationwide are in high-fire hazard areas.

A recent study by Headwaters Economics shows that in 11 fire-prone Western states, only about 14 percent of the land in the WUI has actually been developed, leaving 86 percent available for future development. And so the potential for catastrophic fires that gobble up homes is going to continue to grow.

In high fire-hazard areas, it’s not a question of “if” wildfires will occur, but a question of “when.” And of what people can do to live more safely in a fire-prone environment.

Before You Buy Property

We moved to Colorado from a suburb of Chicago with neighbors so close we could have passed coffeecake back and forth. We’d been escaping to the wilds for years. So when we went shopping for property, we insisted on plenty of trees for privacy and great views. That’s how we ended up on top of a ridge with panoramic views of overgrown forest in all directions—which we now realize was one of the most wildfire-susceptible places we could have built.

So if you’re shopping for property, call the State Forest Service and ask about both fire history and risk for the future. Talk to the county building department and find out if they do wildfire safety inspections. Where’s the nearest fire station? Water supply? A county plat map will show you the road systems and other features. Is there more than one way in and out of the area? You can also check out the view from Google Earth.

4/20/2018 12:15:33 PM

What does WUI stand for?

4/20/2018 8:30:41 AM

One of the best ways to improving your and your homes odds of survival is to maintain brush clearance or to plant green space around your home. Also avoid the use of palm trees and Italian Cyprus, Eucalyptus, pines ( or other oily type ) trees or shrubs like Rosemary hedges. The Skirts of palm trees ( the branches that collapse and hang down when dry ) will act like flaming arrows especially in high winds and got right through stucco walls. Italian Cyprus are dry in the center and go up like exploding candles ( they also harbor rodents in their centers ). Eucalyptus, Pines and Rosemary are very oily and actually explode when exposed to high heat such as in a fire. I don't expect you to plant a lawn around your home for 200 feet or along your drive way or access road but there many other native plantings that are fire resistant and use very little water. They can also be home to many beneficial animals and insects as well as being attractive. See your local native plant society for advice.


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