The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is sponsoring the third annual National Wildfire Community Preparedness day on May 7, 2016. The goal is to raise awareness and prepare communities that are often impacted by wildfires. There are a total of 36 states that will be taking part in funded projects. The activities that these communities will take part in include: evacuation planning, discussions or educational outreach, risk reduction, and other projects that will prepare the participating communities. According to the NFPA, almost 45 million homes are near or around wildlands. That means that more than 72,000 U.S. communities are at risk of wildfire. But if individuals in a community work together, they can make their own property, and community much safer.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, a total of 68,151 wildfires, burned 10,125,149 acres of land in 2015. That’s around seven million more acres than the previous year. As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. Such human-caused fires are spawned by such things as unattended campfires, burning debris, carelessly discarded cigarettes and even intentional acts of arson. The other ten percent of wildfires are usually started by lightning or lava.
Last year was the hottest year on record in terms of average global temperature. The dry and warm conditions over much of the US, due in part to a strong El Nino, also made it a record setting year for the number of acres burned by wildfires and the cost to fight them. For example, Alaska had around 400 fires in May burning close to two million acres of land, and in July had around 700 wildfires that burned around five million acres of land. Washington state also had its largest wildfire on record in the Okanogan Complex, burning around 300,000 acres of land. Below are the states with the largest percentage of households at high or extreme risk from wildfires:
- Idaho: 24.1%
- Colorado: 16.9%
- California: 14.5%
- New Mexico: 13.6%
- Texas: 13.6%
- Utah: 12.8%
- Oregon: 9.5%
- Washington: 5.7%
- Arizona: 5.6%
- Nevada: 5.1%
Source: Insurance Information Institute
So far in 2016, we have already seen 15,485 wildfires and 1.5 million acres burned. Over a 20-year period, between 1995 and 2014, fires, including wildfires, accounted for 1.5 percent of insured catastrophes losses. The damage totaled about $6.0 billion, according to Property Claims Services (PCS). Fortunately, standard home insurance covers damage caused by wildfires. If you live in an area that’s prone to wildfires, you’ll want to do everything you can to prepare yourself. If you would like to read up on wildfires, check out our article on homeowner's insurance and common natural disasters. Below we have provided you with some safety tips for before, during and after a wildfire occurs in your area.
- Make sure you have adequate homeowners insurance coverage
- Be aware of the wildfire risk in your area
- Have a plan: communication, evacuation, etc.
- Prepare an emergency kit
- Have proper space around your home and use fire resistant materials when possible
- Reduce the amount of material that burns easily from around your home
- Clear away debris and dry brush
- Use fire resistant materials for landscaping
- Prune trees so that long hanging branches can't catch fire
- Check your home policy often and make sure you have sufficient coverage in the event of a wildfire.
- Stay aware of updates or news on wildfire
- Prepare for possible evacuation
- Place emergency kit and valuables somewhere safe or in a vehicle
- If you have a pool or hot tub, etc. make sure to fill them up- firefighters can use them as an extra water supply
- Don’t wait, evacuate sooner rather than later
- Continue to stay up-to-date on the news and progress of the wildfire
- Only return home when it is safe to do so
- Inspect your property and make a list of damages
- Take pictures of damages for your insurance claim
- Make sure to properly protect yourself when you start to clean up
You should consider signing up to take part in the National Wildfire Community Preparedness day, if not this year, then in the future. Again, if there is no project in your area you can add a project yourself, just make sure that you know all the rules. Preparing for a wildfire or any natural disaster is important for you and your family's safety, and even your community’s safety. So get involved and get prepared.