Preventing and Preparing for Wildfires

Preventing and Preparing for Wildfires

Wildfires are uncontrolled flames in woodlands, brush or open fields. Approximately 9,000 wildfires occur in Canada each year, destroying roughly 2.5 million hectares of land. That’s ten times the size of Vancouver Island.  As wildfires and forest fires cause billions of dollars in property damage every year and displace families from their homes, it is essential to know how to help prevent and prepare for wildfires.

Wildfire prevention

  • Always pay close attention, and respect fire bans, advisories and warnings before starting any fire.
  • Prepare any fire that you start very carefully and place a firebreak around the perimeter of the area. Never leave a fire unattended. Always have a water source handy.
  • Do not burn campfires in windy conditions.
  • If you smoke, do not discard smoking materials, like cigarette butts, from your car onto the roadway.
  • Lawn and farm equipment should be regularly maintained and have properly working spark arrestors to prevent sparks from exiting through the exhaust pipes.
  • Ensure your chimney is cleaned regularly and screened in with the appropriate, approved spark arrestors.
  • Screen in your eavestroughs to help prevent leaves and other debris from collecting inside them.  If left open they can serve as a flammable place for airborne sparks and embers to land.

Be prepared for wildfire

  • Make sure your home is insured and you have the proper coverage and a home inventory in place to protect it and all of your belongings.
  • Create and maintain an emergency preparedness plan and kit so you are ready to evacuate at any time when you see or learn of a fire approaching.
  • Keep grass mowed and watered, and remove any kind of dry vegetation from your yard since it is flammable. This includes rotted trees and shrubs, deadfall, and woodpiles.  Keep firewood and other sources of fuel at least 10 meters away from the walls of your home.
  • Ensure all family members know your evacuation plan, and what to do if their clothes catch on fire. Practice the Stop, Drop and Roll.
  • Install smoke detectors on every floor of your home. Test them monthly and be sure to replace the batteries when you change your clocks in the spring and fall.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on each level of your home.

If you live in an area with a high risk of wildfires, consider using fire-resistant materials on your home. For example, you may want to replace an untreated wood shake roof with more fire-resilient materials like:

  • Metal
  • Tile
  • Asphalt
  • Treated shakes

The most fire-resistant materials for walls are:

  • Stucco
  • Metal
  • Brick
  • Concrete

Tempered glass is the most fire-resistant type of glass. Double or thermal pane window construction provides moderate protection.

These tips are good start, but you should also consult with your local fire department for advice specific to your community.  For more information on wildfires, visit the National Resources Canada website and see The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction Wildfire brochure.