Homeowners insurance blog

Sound the Alarm: Safety Tips for Summer Wildfires

Wildfires can spark at any time during the year, but summer heat can cause some blazes to billow out of control and become major problems. Before temperatures reach their summer peaks, cover your bases and prepare for the worst. Fire authorities expect wildfires this year, especially on the West Coast, where Californians have experienced historic droughts.

It’s burned us already

Through early April, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection recorded 900 wildfires this year resulting in 2,400 burned acres. Compare that with the yearly average for the period: 340 wildfires and a little more than 1,000 acres burned, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Zoom out and you see how the numbers look even worse. In 2013, there were 47,579 wildfires in the U.S., resulting in 4 million acres burned, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The year before, 38 wildfires classified as disasters caused $1.1 billion in economic losses.

Don’t think the flames can reach you? While it is true that wildfires most often strike in the West and Southwest in such states as California, Texas, Colorado, Washington, Arizona, and Oregon, almost every state in the nation experiences at least some risk. For example, North Carolina was among the states experiencing the most wildfires in 2013, according to the III.

Teach your house to stop, drop, and roll

Your family’s safety is much more important than the fate of your house. That doesn’t mean, however, you should leave your house’s survival up to chance. If you live in an area vulnerable to wildfires, follow these steps to keep your house, possessions, and livelihood from going up in flames:

Before the spark

  • Insure: Review your home insurance policy and limits to make sure you have the right amount of protection. Smoke, fire, and water damage from extinguishing the flames typically are covered by standard policies. Add-ons such as inflation protection to guard against rising construction costs also can help you recover from a widespread wildfire event.
  • Inventory: If you don’t have one already, make a home inventory by listing your possessions, their purchase dates, costs, and approximate current values. It’ll help you match your protection to your home’s contents and file claims later after a covered event.
  • Clear-out: Clear a 15-foot safety zone around your house. This zone should be free of firewood, tree branches, leaves, twigs, vines, and overhanging trees. You also should keep your grass mowed. Not only will these measures make a fire less likely to spread, they also could keep thieves from targeting your home.
  • Evacuate: Follow all evacuation orders. If your house falls even close to a fire’s predicted path, leave. Remember your pets in your evacuation plans. Most emergency shelters don’t allow pets, so plan a temporary, pet-friendly home ahead of time.
  • Prepare: If you have time, complete these steps to reduce the risk of damage to your house:
    • Close all windows, vents, and doors, and move flammable furniture to the center of each room.
    • Turn off your propane and bring patio furniture inside.
    • If you can, place lawn sprinklers on your roof and near fuel tanks so firefighters may use them if necessary.
    • Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of your house.
    • Locate and shut off your utilities before evacuating as they could prove dangerous to anyone returning to the house after an evacuation.

When you smell smoke

Safety takes priority in the face of any disaster. Once you secure your family, look toward preventing damage to your home. Your house is likely your biggest financial investment and your safe haven. Make sure it doesn’t perish in the heat of this summer.