Wildfires are a natural and essential part of a healthy forest’s life cycle, helping to recycle nutrients and allow vegetation to spread and diversify. However, wildfires also pose a threat to both the lives and property of anyone who lives in or near a forested area. With an average of 2.5 million hectares burned each year in Canada, wildfires are a significant part of Canadian life.
Approximately 8,000 wildfires occur each year in Canada, 45 per cent caused by lightning and 55 per cent caused by humans. While humans account for starting more wildfires than lightning, they are usually reported and extinguished quickly because they occur in more populated areas. Fires caused by lightning, however, often occur in clusters and in remote locations, making them much more difficult to identify and extinguish before they spread. As a result, these fires represent 81 per cent of the total area burned each year. These wildfires in particular can spread to communities and force people to evacuate their homes. While firefighters will do all they can to prevent the spread of a wildfire, their limited manpower and resources may prevent them from defending your home.
Although you may not be able to reduce the risk of wildfires occurring in your area, there are measures you can take to reduce the risk of your property being lost to a wildfire.
Wildfires can be particularly dangerous for property owners, as just one fire can spread quickly and level entire homes. As such, it’s important for property owners of all sizes to be proactive when it comes to fire protection.
- Keep the area 10 meters around your home clear of highly flammable plants and debris.
- Regularly remove dry leaves and sticks from your yard and gutters.
- Keep grass cut short.
- Create a buffer of at least 3 metres between our potential sources of fuel wherever possible.
- Remove dead plants and trees.
- Prune any tree branches within 2 meters of the ground.
- Consider installing non-combustible roof coverings. This can include things like clay and concrete tile, slate, fibre cement, and metal shingles and panels. Also, consider using aluminum, steel or copper gutters.
- Place fire extinguishers in strategic locations. Inspect these fire extinguishers on a regular basis and ensure they are all well-maintained.
- Ensure water outlets and hoses are insulated so they do not freeze in the winter.
- Keep woodpiles away from your home.
- Make sure your chimney is up to current building code requirements and includes spark arrestors.
- Keep burn barrels and firepits away from buildings and at least 3 meters away from woodpiles and other materials that may catch fire.
- Keep burn barrels properly ventilated, covered with a screen and never unattended.
- Clear vegetation from possible sources of fuel such as propane tanks and power lines.
- Keep an eye on your local news and official fire announcements to help keep track of wildfires.
- Take a video of all of your belongings and upload it to the cloud – this will be helpful if you have to file in an insurance claim in the event that your home is affected by a wildfire.
- Make sure that hoses and sprinklers are working and available.
- Prepare a ‘go bag’ of important documents in case you are evacuated (passports, birth certificates, bank information, insurance policies, etc.).