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Protecting Your Home from Wildfire in Alberta

Home Insurance

By Joanne Lemna | September 1, 2017

With the proliferation of wildfires and major fire events such as the Fort McMurrary fire affecting the homes and lives of thousands over the last few years protecting your home from wildfire in Alberta is probably something many of us have been thinking about. The incidence of wildfires is on the rise due to a combination of weather and precipitation patterns and human action.  Did you know that over 50% of wildfires are human-caused? It’s important to understand how to help keep your home safe and prevent wildfires while you’re out enjoying nature.

Create a Defensible Zone Around Your Home

The first 10m around your home should be free of flammable materials . This includes dry grass dead or dying vegetation and any easily combustible plants such as those with needles. Do not store any fuel or wood next to your home. Ensure that the grass is mowed and watered in this area as well. You can use non-flammable landscaping such as rocks stones and sand in this zone. Low-moisture plants such as succulents and cacti are a good option for vegetation here.

If you have a deck or shed they should be built of fire-resistant materials or located more than 10m from the home. Firewood should also be stored at least 10m from any building preferably in a fire-resistant closed box or in a raised open container with a fire resistant tarp.

The next 20m you should be reducing fuel to feed the fire. This mostly means vegetation management . Remove dead or unhealthy plant life regularly and remember to remove roots and stumps as well. Thin and prune your trees so that individually they are between 3 to 6 metres apart and there are no branches until 2 metres from the ground. You should extend this zone even further on downhill slopes or windward exposures.

The next 70m (or until your property line ends) you should focus on thinning the understory area of the forest and providing adequate crown spacing between the trees which should be approximately 3 to 6 metres apart.

Making Your Home More Fire Resistant

Flying embers are often what sets a home ablaze. To help prevent your home from catching fire here are a few areas to focus on:

Roof – The most fire-resistant roofs are metal tile and asphalt shingle roofs. Be sure that they are kept clear of pine needles and leaves and that there are no overhanging branches.

Exterior Walls – The best exterior walls are stucco metal brick or concrete. Logs and heavy timber provide some fire-resistance while wood and vinyl are flammable.

Eaves – Be sure to keep your eaves clean as embers can get inside and create hotspots. Screens on your eaves can be helpful.

Vents – Vents should be screened and cleaned as well. You can purchase ember-resistant vents at some big box stores.

Chimney – Make sure your chimney is up to code and clean.

Doors and Windows – Heat can go through windows and ignite drapes and furniture. Tempered thermal and smaller double-pane windows are the best choices paired with fire-resistant drapes or non-combustible shutters. The bigger the window the less stable it is so there is a higher chance it will break due to heat stress.

If you have a fire pit or burn barrel ensure that it is at least 3 metres from any building fuel or combustible material. These should never be left unattended and be properly ventilated. Ember or spark screens help reduce the risk of fire.

Having tools such as shovels rakes axes hoses sprinklers and ladders can help with fire suppression. You also want to ensure emergency vehicles are able to easily access your home . Providing a water supply such as a tank or pond is also very useful.

Protecting What Matters Most

Make a list of what you value most. If you can create digital and paper copies of important documents. Keep your valuables close together if that’s possible. Storing them in a fireproof safe is a good idea in case you cannot evacuate your valuables.

Make an emergency evacuation plan with your family. Each individual should know where they need to go and what they need to do. You should also have an emergency kit prepared with food water batteries first aid and a radio.

Report wildfires and never assume one has been reported unless you see emergency crews tending to it or hear so on the radio. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry. The Alberta number is 310-FIRE .

Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage on your home and property. Contact your insurance broker today to discuss your coverage options.

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