Fire Prevention: Brush Fires

The largest fire in the united states occurred on October 8th, 1872 in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. The blaze burned sixteen towns, killed 1,152 people, and burned over 1.2 million acres. This statistic was provided by the National Fire Protection Agency. According to Historical accounts, the fire was unintentionally started by a group of railroad workers and within an hour there was basically nothing left of the town but smoke and ashes.

Even though the Peshtigo fire happened over a 100 years ago, brush fires still remain a very serious threat to towns, cities, and personal homes today. Between 2004 to 2008, local fire departments in the United States responded to around 356,800 brush and forest fires per year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System. This is why it’s critical to take a few preventative safety steps to safeguard your home, business, and personal property from brush related fires.

Yard Maintenance

Landscaping is a great way to limit exposure to possible brush fires. Simply by keeping bushes and hedges below three feet will avoid overgrowth that can catch fire. Also, keeping tree canopies greater than eight feet will assist in avoiding a fire that starts on the surface from reaching branches and your residence. Additionally, trimming shrubs and trees can improve the security of your residence because there are fewer places for intruders to conceal themselves. You might want to also keep branches and other vegetation away from siding and the roof to avoid a fire from spreading to the home. The use of a non-combustible material (such as gravel) instead of organic mulch near edges can help prevent various structure related fires.

Use Fire-Resistant Building Materials

The use of fire-resistant siding, screened or ember-resistant vents, and attachments, such as fences, decks and porches, can help avoid brush fires from spreading to your residence. Also, roofs constructed of Class-A asphalt shingles, metal, clay tile, or concrete products also significantly reduce the chance of a tree or shrub from igniting your home. Even though these materials will improve the fire-resistance of your home, their effectiveness will slowly diminish if you don’t occasionally inspect your roof for breaks or other gaps between tiles and clean out the gutter system for your residence. Although this may seem like a lot of work, it should really be one of your main priorities because leaves and other debris that get trapped in these places can easily start a fire.

Keep Flammable Materials Away

Somewhere around 12% of brush fires are caused by smoky objects, such as cigarettes, on the ground. Smoking items should always be disposed in a fire-resistant container. You should also stay away from using fire pits, chimneys, and other outdoor fireplaces near your residence. If you plan to hold a camp fire make certain it is in a safe distance from your residence and call your local fire department to find out if you will need a burn permit. Another device that can cause brushfires are outdoor grills and other cooking apparatuses. Outdoor grills should always be kept at least ten feet from any structures. When the grill is not being used, be sure any propane tanks have all their valves fully closed and kept in a cool location. Fireworks are also another high statistic behind brush fires. In 2009, fireworks created an estimated 18,000 fires, including 1,300 structure, according to the NFPA. Fireworks should always be used by those who are trained and certified to use them.

For additional tips on keeping your residence and business safe from outdoor brush fires, visit Firewise.org. Also, talk to your insurance agent about how to protect your home or business in the event of a catastrophic fire.