Are You in a Wildfire-Prone Area? Here’s What to Do to Stay Safe.
Since the 1990s, wildfires in the U.S. have been burning more than twice the amount of land,1 with wildfires in the Western U.S. lasting 64 percent longer and happening four times as often.2 Wildfires are also becoming more intense, as the National Weather Service released its first-ever, highest-severity extreme red flag fire warning to areas in California in 2019.
If you live in an area prone to wildfires, there are actions you can take to prepare and stay safe -- before, during, and after a fire.
Before a Wildfire
Take these steps throughout the year:
- Make sure your address is visible from the street in all directions.
- Treat, clear, and cut back vegetation, remove fallen debris, and any combustible fuels, creating a defensible space perimeter and firebreak around your home and adjacent structures. Learn more here.
- Plant vegetation that slows fire, such as rockrose, ice plant, and aloe, or fire-resistant shrubs such as hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac, or shrub apples.
- Replace wood mulch with rock or gravel.
- Remove dead leaves and pine needles from roofs, decks, and patios.
- Install a safe to help protect jewelry and other valuables from fire damage.
- Remove lint and other buildup from air conditioner screens.
- Install fire-resistant vents so burning embers can’t enter your home.
- Consider purchasing a portable gasoline-powered water pump, which allows fire engines to draw water from nearby swimming pools.
- If you are a Chubb client in an eligible location, enroll in Chubb Wildfire Defense Services to help protect your home and property. Learn more here.
During a Wildfire
If you face an imminent wildfire threat, monitor the local news and evacuate when ordered to do so. Use our Emergency Evacuation Packing List and the following tips to get ready:
- Turn on outdoor lights.
- Close windows, vents, doors, blinds, noncombustible window coverings, and your fireplace.
- Remove non-fire-resistant curtains from windows and doors.
- If time permits, seal attic and ground vents with plywood or commercial seals.
- Set up your portable gasoline-powered water pump.
- Shut off propane at the tank or natural gas at the meter.
- Turn off all pilot lights.
- Move combustible items, such as wood piles and patio furniture, at least 30 feet away from all structures.
- Move all flammable furniture to the center of your home.
After a Wildfire
For your safety, do not return home until all evacuation orders have been lifted and the roads surrounding your home are clear. Watch for downed trees and power lines, and use caution as the threat of flash floods or mudslides is real. In addition:
- Turn on your flashlight before entering your home to prevent sparking a fire if gas is present inside.
- Check for sparks or embers.
- Contact your power company if the power is out and your main breaker is on.
- Do not drink or use water unless you know it is safe.
- Discard food that may have been damaged by fire or smoke.
For additional wildfire safety tips and more, visit our Catastrophe Center.
Suzanne Moyers, CPCU, AIC, is a Risk-Consulting Catastrophe Manager, Chubb Personal Risk Services.