Are You Prepared for the Next Wildfire?

With wildfire season starting earlier and extending later into winter, the potential for your home to be affected is growing. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, over the past 5 years in the United States, more than 306,000 wildfires have burned over 39 million acres. And according to the Canadian Wildland Information System, over the last 10 years there have been over 5,500 wildfires in Canada that burn on average over 2,800,000 hectares of forest per year—the equivalent to over 7 million football fields or almost the entire Vancouver Island.

Considering this destructive force of nature, it remains critical that homeowners consistently evaluate their properties’ exposure and be as prepared as possible.

Embers: A Leading Culprit in Spreading Dangerous Wildfires

Wildfires’ infamous culprit is embers. While they may seem harmless, 90% of homes and buildings damaged during a wildfire are from embers. All it takes is one to find its way into or around your home and ignite, which can result in severe damage or loss of your home.

Moreover, embers can blow upwards of one mile ahead of the wildfire front. Make no mistake about it: if your home is in or near a wildfire-prone area, even in a subdivision adjacent to a wildland setting, you may still be at risk to embers from wildfires.  

Steps Homeowners Can Take to Reduce Wildfire Risk

The following are action steps that homeowners can take to reduce their risk and protect their home from wildfires:

  • Create and maintain defensible space. Keep lawns well-manicured and watered.  
  • Remove leaves, pine needles, and other flammable material from the roof, gutters, and on and under the deck to help prevent embers from igniting debris near the home.  
  • Remove any flammable mulch closest to the home and consider replacing it with noncombustible materials such as gravel or rock.
  • Trim or remove any low hanging tree limbs 8 feet off the ground and remove any tree branches that overhang the roof within 10 feet from your home.
  • Relocate combustible patio furniture away from your home or consider replacing with fire-resistant patio furniture options.  
  • Have a contractor inspect your roof and repair or replace any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles. Close ends of roof tiles with bird stops or cement to help prevent ember penetration during a wildfire. 
  • Inspect exterior siding for dry rot, gaps, cracks, and warping. Caulk or plug gaps greater than 1/16-inch in siding and replace any damaged boards, including those with dry rot. 
  • Inspect all eave and attic vents and install 1/8-inch metal mesh screens to prevent ember intrusion. 
  • Consider replacing plants near your home with fire-resistant plants with high moisture content.  
  • Relocate any wood piles and propane tanks to 30 feet away from your home.

Last, when facing an imminent wildfire threat, monitor the local news and follow evacuation orders.

Don’t wait for the fire; be prepared ahead of time. For additional emergency preparedness tips and resources, visit our Catastrophe Center or access our Emergency Evacuation Packing List.

Andrew MacIntosh is a senior risk consultant for Chubb Personal Risk Services in Canada.
James Milek is a risk consultant for Chubb Personal Risk Services in the United States.

The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.