Wildfire safety

Few people realize that when they move to the edges of wilderness, they move into the domain of wildfires. Even though you may live in a thoroughly contemporary suburb, if you can look away into open country, brush or deep woods, you're vulnerable during hot and dry seasons.

According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, one-third of U.S. homes are located in the Wildland Urban Interface, areas that combine housing developments with natural topography, trees and vegetation. In recent years, homes in these areas have become common casualties of hard-to-control wildfires.

If you live in one of these areas, it's a good idea to review your Allied Homeowners Insurance policy to make sure you're covered in the event of a wildfire, and to follow these wildfire safety measures to protect your home.

For your home: wildfire resistant construction

You can do a lot to protect your home from being destroyed by wildfire, both inside and out, and in many cases upgrades can be handled without hiring a contractor or engineer. Regardless, be sure that if you're planning significant structural renovations that they are in line with local building codes before you start. Most wildfire mitigation actions are affordable and can be accomplished over a weekend.

A wildfire poses a threat to any structure in its path. To increase the chances of your home escaping with minimal damage, homeowners should retrofit an existing home or choose wildfire resistant features when building a new home. The list below provides some examples:

  • Select a location with multiple ways to enter and exit, both your home and your neighborhood, to make sure if one route is blocked, you still have a way out.
  • Homes with the highest risk of burning are those situated on the perimeter of housing developments adjacent to wildlands.
  • Houses situated fewer than 15 feet apart are at higher risk from wildfires.
  • Cover attic, eave and sub-floor vents with noncombustible screening with a mesh size no greater than 1/8 inch.
  • Avoid flammable materials such as wood shingles when building your roof because they can easily catch fire from wind-blown sparks. Select Class A noncombustible materials instead.
  • If you have a barrel tile roof, seal the open edges with grout to prevent windblown embers from entering your home.
  • Limit the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation. The heat from a wildfire can cause windows to break even before the home ignites. Install tempered glass or multilayered glazed panels in exterior windows, glass doors and skylights. Or install solid, exterior shutters.
  • Use fire-resistant siding materials.

For your landscape: keep it lean, clean and green

Flames aren't the only concern in a wildfire. Burning embers destroy more homes in wildfires than direct contact with flames do. Windblown embers can travel a mile or more, making them a big threat to homes. You can reduce your home's wildfire risk by:

  • Avoiding the use of combustible bark and wood-chip mulch.
  • Planting native, fire-resistive vegetation whenever possible.
  • Enclosing the underside of balconies and aboveground decks with fire-resistive or noncombustible materials.
  • Screening decks that are low to the ground with 1/8 inch mesh. Do not store flammable materials under the deck.
  • Keeping grass cut short, and the 30 foot area immediately around your home well watered.
  • Creating "defensible space" by removing all dry grass, brush, trees and dead leaves within at least 100 feet from your home.
  • Spacing trees and shrubs at least 10 feet apart. Reduce the number of trees in heavily wooded areas.
  • Pruning the lower branches within 6 feet of the ground to keep ground fires from spreading into treetops.
  • Removing all dead branches overhanging your roof and all branches within 15 feet of chimneys.
  • Storing firewood at least 30 feet downhill from any structure. Remove fuel sources within 30 feet of the home that will support a high-intensity spot fire – e.g. palm tree beards, wood trellises, sheds, play-sets, patio furniture, refuse/recycle containers, gazebos.
  • Locating butane and propane tanks at least 30 feet from any structure, maintaining at least 10 feet of clearance around the tank. Be sure the tank vent is positioned away from structures.
  • Keeping gutters and roof valleys clear of leaves, pine needles and vegetation.

Business and Home Safety Guides

Regional Wildfire Mitigation Guides

Wildfire risks can vary from region to region. To help property owners better understand their risks, the Institute for Business and Home Safety developed the following guides. Each guide contains a property assessment form, including a cost estimate tool, which will help home and business owners assess their wildfire risk and prioritize necessary retrofit projects.

Cost Estimate Guide

The checklist below will help you assess the vulnerability of your property and its surroundings to wildfire. Each section is listed in order of importance as it relates to wildfire protection. After you assess your risk, use the action and cost sections to help you prioritize ways to better protect your home or business.

Wildfire Brochures

A quick reference guide to creating defensible space, and mitigating wildfire risk around your home or business.

Wildfire Video

Find out how a wildfire can ignite your home in a video from the US Forest Service.

The information provided in the third party website linked above was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Nationwide, its affiliates and employees do not guarantee improved results based upon the information contained therein and assume no liability in connection with the information safety suggestions or loss mitigation recommendations provided. The recommendations are general in nature and unique circumstances may not warrant or require some or all of the safety and loss mitigation suggestions. There may be additional safety procedures and loss mitigation suggestions that are not referenced in the linked site.

Product, coverage, discounts, insurance terms, definitions, and other descriptions are intended for informational purposes only and do not in any way replace or modify the definitions and information contained in your individual insurance contracts, policies, and/or declaration pages from Allied-affiliated underwriting companies, which are controlling. Such products, coverage, terms, and discounts may vary by state and exclusions may apply.