May is National Wildfire Awareness Month
By Carolanne Chavanne, CFP®
Wildfire Awareness Month is a month-long campaign in May to raise awareness about the risks of wildfires and the steps you can take to prevent them. These natural disasters are more common than ever, with communities all over the country (especially along the West Coast) becoming all too familiar with the dull red skies that mark a nearby fire.
While we may not like them, they are a part of nature. Wildfires are natural weather events that can occur in any part of the country, but they are more common in the western states. But being natural does not mean they aren’t dangerous. These fires can cause significant damage to property, wildlife, and even human lives. They are also major contributors to air pollution and can have long-term environmental impacts.
Luckily, there are several ways that individuals and communities can reduce the risk of wildfires. One of the most important is maintaining a defensible space around homes and other structures. No, we don’t mean a castle wall. Creating this barrier involves removing dead trees, brush, and other combustible materials within 30 feet of any structure. And don’t forget your roof! Hanging branches over your home can spread fire and come crashing down on your head.
It is also important to use fire-resistant plants and materials in landscaping and to keep lawns and other areas around the home well-watered. If you live in a water-scarce area, consider desertification for your yard to minimize flammable materials. And what if you have a deck? Embers from a fire can blow under your deck, leading to a smolderingly bad situation. Add a wire screen or mesh with a fine, tight weave (no more than 1/8th inch) to prevent embers from straying where they don’t belong.
Another important tip to prevent wildfires is to be aware of fire weather conditions and avoid activities that could spark a fire, such as smoking, building campfires, and using fireworks. People should take extra precautions during dry or windy conditions and avoid parking cars in dry grass or using power tools in the woods.
When it comes to tips for inside your home, think about preserving what you have. Get a fireproof bag to hold your valuable documents (birth certificates, titles, deeds, etc.) and keep them safe in a worst-case scenario. And make sure your homeowners insurance is always up to date, as reconstruction costs can vary over time, depending on market conditions. Also, prepare yourself for the worst. Make sure you have an emergency plan and a stash of supplies, also called a go kit. This way, if a fire does happen, you will know exactly what to do and have the resources to stay safe while you evacuate. Check out ready.gov and FEMA’s website for more information about making your plan.
The most surprising thing about wildfires is that they can lead to flooding. Fires leave behind a stripped and barren landscape that cannot hold and absorb water the same way as a healthy wooded area. Rains can lead to fast flows of water and mudslides and even pick up debris from the fire, like ash or the remnants of trees. Adding flood insurance is an excellent way to protect your home from this secondary threat.
Many states and local communities organize events and activities to educate the public about wildfire safety during this month. This includes educational programs, community meetings, and information sessions on how to prepare for a wildfire. With wildfires becoming more common, we must become aware of fire weather conditions, maintain a defensible space around our homes, and be mindful of how we affect our local environments. With a little effort, anyone can work to reduce the risk of wildfires and protect our communities.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.