Wildfires are large, destructive natural fires that move quickly through woodlands, forests and brushy areas. Wildfires need only a slight spark or amplified heat source to begin, and often occur randomly or without much warning.

It just takes the right combination of oxygen, heat and fuel to start a wildfire. It can result from a spark from a train, a rogue cigarette butt or even a controlled fire that gets out of hand. While we can’t know when wildfires will strike, we can plan to stay safe when they come our way.

Who is Susceptible?

Generally, wildfires are found in the western half of the United States. Wildfires can start for a variety of reasons, but most begin in an area with dry conditions and lots of open space. States that see the most wildfires include California, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and sometimes Wyoming and Texas, and parts of the southeast, but a wildfire can occur anywhere the conditions are right.

Those who live near forests or in wooded areas in susceptible regions are the most likely to be the first to encounter a wildfire.

Preparing Your Home

Damage from natural disasters like wildfires are tougher to prevent than other home threats like burglaries and house fires. However, there are some steps you can take to make it tougher for wildfires to spread on the exterior of your property.

First, be sure to rid your property of all dead grass, leaves and plants. You can do this by raking up large piles or getting on your roof to remove leaves. Dead plant life burns quick and therefore should be completely eliminated in advance as often as you can manage.

Next, give your trees, shrubs, and bushes both vertical and horizontal space to grow. That means making sure there isn’t a path a wildfire can take from natural growth towards your home. Trim tree branches so they aren’t touching, make sure tree limbs don’t hang too close above bushes and be aware of how close together everything is situated. Creating space can help slow down a wildfire and give you time to escape.

Preparing Your Family

A wildfire can spread at a rate of up to 10 to 15 miles per hour. If you live in an area with dry conditions, pay attention to local news and weather as often as you can. Get a weather radio that will alert you of a fire as soon as it’s reported. Anything that can give you a heads up to allow adequate time to escape.

Before you ever hear about a wildfire in your area, you should complete two tasks with your family. First, put together an emergency kit with everything you would need to make a quick getaway. Second, set in place a family communication plan. Make sure everyone knows what to do, where your family’s rally point is located, and how to act when a wildfire is drawing near.

Stay safe!