As hundreds of wildfires rage along the west coast, many parts of Canada have issued special air quality statements due to poor air quality. Satellite images have shown wildfire smoke spreading across Canada, leaving many homeowners questioning the impacts of the summer wildfire season in 2021.
Wildfires have been reported in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario, with evacuation orders in several towns and municipalities.
Which brings us to the topic of Wildfire Safety. Many homeowners face the risk of wildfires, which are usually triggered by lightning or accidents. They spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. Some homes survive, but unfortunately, many others do not. Those that survive almost always do so because their owners had prepared for fire. Reduce your risk by preparing now to protect your family, home and property.
Preparing Your Home for a Wildfire
The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property in the event of a fire.
- Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it.
- Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of your house, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking or trim with fire-retardant chemicals.
- Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees.
- Regularly clean your roof and gutters; remove any debris that could catch fire.
- Inspect your chimneys at least twice a year, and clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester.
- Install mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas and the home itself to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating. You should also cover openings to floors, roofs and attics with mesh screens to prevent sparks and embers from entering your home.
- Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test it every month and change the batteries at least once each year.
- Teach your family members how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type), and show them where it’s kept.
- Keep household items available that can be used as fire tools, such as rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
- Keep a ladder that will reach the roof in case a family member ends up on the roof of a burning house. Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
- Move flammable items away from the house and outside of your defensible space, including woodpiles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc.
Practice Wildfire Safety
Most wildfires are started by people. Here’s how you can promote and practice wildfire safety.
- Contact your local fire department for information on fire laws.
- Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your name and address.
- Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
- Teach children about fire safety.
- Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
- Ensure large fire vehicles have adequate access to your property.
- Plan several escape routes away from your home, both by car and by foot.
- Stack firewood at least 30 metres away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 6 metres of a woodpile.
- Review your homeowner’s insurance policy and prepare or update a list of your home’s contents.
- Follow Local Burning Laws
- Before burning debris in a wooded area, make sure you notify local authorities and obtain a burning permit.
- Use an approved incinerator with a safety lid.
- Create at least a 3-metre clearing around the incinerator before burning debris.
- Have a fire extinguisher or garden hose on hand when burning debris.
During a Wildfire
If you are not ordered to evacuate, and have time to prepare your home, take the following actions.
If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Take your disaster supply kit, lock your home and choose a route away from the fire hazard. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of the fire and smoke. Tell someone when you left and where you are going. If you see a wildfire and haven’t received evacuation orders yet, call 911. Don’t assume that someone else has already called. Describe the location of the fire, speak slowly and clearly and answer any questions the dispatcher asks.
If you are not ordered to evacuate, and have time to prepare your home, take the following actions:
- Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area in case you need to evacuate.
- Wear protective clothing when outside, such as sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothes, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
- Close outside attic, eaves and basement vents, windows, doors and other openings.
- Remove flammable drapes and curtains. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat.
- Close all doors inside the house to prevent drafts. Open the damper on your fireplace, but close the fireplace screen.
- Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source.
- Connect garden hoses to outdoor water taps and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs or other large containers with water.
- Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near aboveground fuel tanks. Leave sprinklers on and dowse these structures as long as possible.
- Disconnect any automatic garage door openers so that doors can still be opened by hand if the power goes out. Close all garage doors.
- Place valuable papers, mementos and anything “you can’t live without” inside the car in the garage, ready for quick departure.
- Place valuables that will not be damaged by water in a pool or pond.
- Move flammable furniture into the centre of the home away from the windows and sliding glass doors.
- Turn on outside lights and leave a light on in every room to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.
Speak To One Of Our Personal Lines Insurance Brokers
In addition to insuring your home, we are committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. When it comes to safety, we are dedicated to providing you with the information that will help improve your overall preparedness for any circumstance.