Wildfire Damage Protection
Summer brings wildfire season to many parts of Canada. The season generally runs from April to October, with peak activity between mid-May and August. British Columbia experienced one of its worst wildfire seasons in over 60 years in 2017. The Fort McMurray wildfires of 2016 led to the largest-ever mass evacuation in Alberta and became the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.
The reality is that wildfires are a normal part of the forest ecosystem in some regions. Fire clears the forest floor of debris and opens it up to sunlight, allowing existing trees to grow stronger and healthier. Unfortunately, wildfires pose tremendous risk to communities located close to forests.
How to Prepare for a Wildfire
Here are 10 ways you can protect your property from a wildfire, whether you’re a commercial property owner, property manager or homeowner:
- Create a 10-metre defensible space around your property. Fire needs fuel to burn. Clear away any highly combustible materials, such as twigs, branches, leaves, tree needles, brush, woodpiles and mulch.
- Make your roof fire-resistant and clear away gutter debris. Wood shingles are extremely flammable. Roofs constructed from non-flammable materials, such asphalt, metal, slate or tile, offer the best possible protection against fire. If replacing a wooden roof is not immediately possible, it can also be treated with fire retardant. Debris can easily ignite from sparks or embers, so keep your gutters clean. You can also screen them with metal mesh to reduce the amount of debris that can build up.
- Keep embers out. Any opening can allow sparks and embers to enter your property. Precautions include screening vents with wire mesh, protecting eaves with soffits and fascia made from fire-resistant materials, repairing any loose shingles, and sealing doggy doors during wildfire season.
- Remove close by coniferous trees. Coniferous trees (with cones and needles) are extremely flammable, whereas deciduous (leafy) trees are naturally fire-resistant. Any coniferous tree within 10 metres of your property is a serious fire hazard. Beyond 10 metres, space out coniferous trees by at least three metres.
- Prune your trees. If you do have trees surrounding your property, make sure to prune lower branches regularly. For coniferous trees, remove branches within two metres of the ground.
- Keep your lawn mowed. Grasses shorter than 10 centimetres are a much lower fire risk. Well-watered grass also helps stop flames from spreading (provided your area does not have water restrictions).
- Create a “bug-out” bag and an action/evacuation plan. The bag should contain a fire extinguisher, bottled water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, survival blanket, two-way radios, cell phone charger, N95 respirators and important documents (copies of insurance paperwork, personal identification). An action plan should detail pre-planned evacuation routes, an emergency meeting location, an evacuation plan for pets and/or livestock, and last minute-steps such as moving away any fuel tank close to buildings, including propane tanks and jerry cans.
- Find a “fire-resistant zone” near your home. This could be a tilled field or large paved area, free of vegetation. This spot will allow you a resource should a wildfire approach quickly and regular routes are not viable.
- Work with your neighbours. If a nearby property ignites, your property is under threat. It is important to make fire preparation a community activity, especially if you live in a densely populated area.
- Ensure you have adequate insurance coverage. Check your insurance policy to ensure your home and belongings are sufficiently insured, and that your policy is up to date.
As with any emergency, being prepared is the best way to lower your risk of property damage. The Canadian Wildland Fire Information System creates daily fire weather and fire behaviour maps year-round and hot spot maps throughout the forest fire season, available at cwfis.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/home.
If you live in a known wildfire danger zone or your area is prone to droughts – another risk factor for wildfires—taking action now will benefit you, your neighbourhood and your community.
For more information about wildfire protection and restoration solutions contact us. If you are a commercial property owner, help prepare for disaster with a PREP Program. Learn more about the expertise of our Commercial Large Loss Unit.