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No one has to tell us that California is bone-dry. But in addition to dying gardens and new drought-resistant landscapes, a very serious consequence is an uptick in wildfires. CalFire alone has responded to fires that burned nearly 220,000 acres since January 1, 2015. Over the 20-year period 1995 to 2014, fires—including wildfires—accounted for 1.5 percent of insured catastrophe losses, totaling about $6.0 billion, according to the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO.
But you can be proactive and protect your home and family. Obviously, you cannot prevent a wildfire, but you can mitigate its effects. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (disastersafety.org) has created an excellent Wildlife Home Assessment and Checklist” for helping you keep your home safe. The organization has also put together a list of tips of things you can do right now to help mitigate a disaster:
- Maintain Defensible Space (0–5 feet) – Use noncombustible materials such as gravel, brick, or concrete in this critical area adjacent to your home.
- Reduce Siding Risks – Maintain 6-inch ground-to-siding clearance, and consider noncombustible siding.
- Clean Debris from Roof – Regularly remove debris from your roof, since debris can be ignited by wind-blown embers.
- Use a Class A Roof Covering – Class A fire-rated roofing products offer the best protection for homes.
- Clean Out Gutters Regularly – Keep debris out of gutters since debris can be ignited by wind-blown embers. If used, gutter covers should be noncombustible.
- Reduce Fence Risks – Burning fencing can generate embers and cause direct flame contact to your home. Use noncombustible fences and gates.
- Keep Embers out of Eaves and Vents – Use 1/8-inch mesh to cover vents, and box-in open eaves to create a soffited eave.
- Protect Windows – Use multi-pane, tempered glass windows, and close them when a wildfire threatens.
- Reduce Deck Risks – At a minimum, use deck boards that comply with California requirements for new construction in wildfire-prone areas, remove combustibles under deck, and maintain effective defensible space.
- Maintain Defensible Space (5–30 feet) – Remove shrubs under trees, prune branches that overhang your roof, thin trees, and remove dead vegetation. Move trailers/RVs and storage sheds from area, or build defensible space around these items.
You cannot predict when and where a wildfire will strike, but you can make sure you have the resources to keep yourself and your family going during the recovery process. Talk with your insurance professional and make sure you have the coverages you need to do just that.