As we move further into spring and temperatures continue to rise, now is a great time to FireSmart your property! While the immediate, intermediate, and extended zones of your property will likely need some attention this season, it’s always a good idea to start with your immediate zone (0m to 1.5m around your property). The good news is a few routine chores throughout this zone could save your home in the event of a wildfire.
The following tasks from our Homeowner’s Manual can significantly increase the safety of your property and reduce the risk of ignition due to sparks or embers. Looking for a visual version of this list? See our Tips to FireSmart Your Home Infographic.
1. Clean under your deck
The area beneath your deck can accumulate an abundance of branches, leaves, and other flammable debris throughout the year. To minimize the risk of fire for your home, take some time to clean all debris and flammable materials out from under your deck and properly dispose of any waste. Once this area has been cleared, it’s strongly recommended to sheath the base of your deck with fire-resistant materials to reduce the risk of sparks and embers igniting your home.
2. Assess your roof and gutters
Roofs of all sizes and styles contain areas where debris and embers may collect. The same is true for gutters, as they often contain highly-flammable materials if they are not regularly cleaned. To enhance the fire resiliency of your property, assess your roof and gutters to locate areas where flammable materials, like dry leaves, moss, and branches have gathered. These easily ignite if embers find them, so removing them can greatly reduce fire risks. To further increase fire safety for your property, consider installing metal gutter screens to reduce the volume of debris that accumulates in them over time.
3. Keep your lawn maintained
A well-maintained lawn is a fire-resistant lawn. Grass that is taller than 10cm is more likely to burn longer and carry fire farther, so it’s important to mow your lawn on a regular basis. In addition to staying on top of mowing, you should ensure that your lawn is sufficiently watered. This is because dry or dead grass has a much higher flammability potential than healthy and hydrated grass. While proper lawn care can be a time-consuming task, it can pay dividends in terms of fire resiliency and keep your yard looking great.
4. Relocate combustible materials
We totally get it. Keeping firewood, propane tanks, and even your kids’ plastic outdoor toys close to the house is the most convenient storage option. Unfortunately, these items can pose a significant risk when exposed to wildfire. For example, propane tanks can explode and cause extensive damage to your property. Stacks of firewood can also ignite from embers and cause the rest of your home to catch fire. Instead of keeping these items against your siding or beneath your deck, place them in a location that is at least 10 to 30 metres away from your home. When storing propane, be sure to keep any other combustible materials at least 10 metres away from each tank. In addition to firewood and propane tanks, it’s worth taking some time to relocate any scrap wood, plastic furniture, or kayaks that may be too close to your home. Moving each of these items to a safer area can be a key factor that will allow your home to survive a wildfire.
5. Prune trees on your property
Did you know that a FireSmart yard can include a variety of trees? Though some homeowners are under the impression that all trees are highly flammable, the reality is that there are many types of deciduous (leafy) trees that are resistant to wildfire. These trees include poplar, birch, aspen, cottonwood, maple, alder, ash, and cherry. While these trees are more resistant to fire than coniferous trees (trees with cones and needles), they must still be pruned regularly to optimize safety. As part of your spring cleaning routine, take some time to prune any branches within two metres of the ground and remove any flammable debris that may have fallen from your trees. This will help keep surface fires more confined, limiting the heights flames can reach.
6. Reduce Highly Flammable Plants
Just like trees, certain plants are more flammable than others. To increase the fire resiliency of your property, take a look around your home and yard to look for plants with the following qualities:
- Leaves that have a strong odour when crushed
- Stems or branches with a gummy sap or strong odour
- Fine, dry, or dead materials such as paper-like bark, twigs, needles, and leaves within the plant.
Plants with any of these qualities are highly flammable and should be removed from your property if possible as they can act as fuel for wildfires. While there’s no such thing as a fire-proof plant, there are plants that do not provide significant fuel for fires or increase the intensity of the flames. These plants have:
- Moist and supple leaves
- Water-like sap with little to no odour
- A limited amount of fine, dry, or dead materials.
Not sure which plants to choose for your property? The FireSmart Plant Program is now active in more than 50 garden centres across BC. Visit a participating location today to ensure that you’re choosing the right plants. While each plant in this program is fire-resistant, they can become a risk to your property if they’re not properly cared for. This means that you will need to invest in the right plants and ensure that they’re maintained over time to minimize the risk of fire. To learn more about FireSmart landscaping and plant care, take a look at the FireSmart Landscaping Hub for some helpful tips and information.
7. Create a Wildfire Evacuation Plan
Having a detailed plan in place is crucial for responding to a wildfire in a timely and effective manner. If you have not already done so, take some time to create a wildfire evacuation plan. Not sure where to start? Take a look at our Last-Minute Wildfire Checklist for some tips. If you already have a plan in place, take some time to review it to ensure that everything is sufficiently accounted for. A quick review can be the key difference between an effective plan and an ineffective one.
Now that spring is here, it’s time to get started on these tasks and enhance the fire resiliency of your property before summer arrives. While some of these tasks will require more time and effort than others, they all contribute to making your property FireSmart and you’ll be glad you completed them.
If you need help deciding what to do first for your home, see the FireSmart Weather Report for some recommendations based on your location and current weather conditions! And if you’re looking to take your wildfire resilience to the next level, a professional Home Partners assessment could lead to FireSmart certification and even a discount on your home insurance!