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Climate Change, Wildfires, and Your Home

The United States is experiencing a deluge of wildfires. From January to October, more than 45,000 wildfires swept the nation — burning over 8.3 million acres. Climate change may be increasing the occurrence of wildfires, and you need to take measures to keep your home safe.

Bigger Risk of Fire

The Evans Canyon wildfire in Washington burned 70,000 acres — filling Yakima, Sunnyside, and Toppenish with smoke. Wildfires that cover more than 50,000 acres are rare, but they are appearing more frequently in the past few years. Longer dry spells and hotter dryer weather brought about by climate change increase the size of wildfires significantly.

Experts believe that the projected temperature increase of 1 °C would grow the size of fires by as much as 600% in certain areas. Dry conditions are also optimum environments for beetles and other insects that feed off trees. Weak or dead trees are more likely to burn — fueling any fire that starts in a forest. A longer fire season also means more chances for fires to start.

The Human Element

More than 85% of wildfires are inadvertently caused by people. Hikers can lose control of their campfires or simply leave embers unattended after they leave. In 2002, a woman burning a letter from an estranged husband started a 140,000-acre wildfire. The fire was even more controversial as the woman was a fire prevention technician. Acts of carelessness are often the culprits and even the most insignificant sparks can create rampaging wildfires. The small light from a discarded cigarette or the flickering lights of firecrackers are some of their most common causes. However, not all fires are accidental.

The Sweet Creek fire in Oregon was investigated as arson and a man eventually pleaded guilty to the act. Not all forms of intentional burning are destructive. Most states will periodically burn shrubs or trees in the offseason to minimize or limit the chances of wildfires. Controlled burns are considered normal in most states — except for California. Whether it’s environmentalists or lack of funding, the state does not have a clear directive on controlled burns.

Fire Safety at Home

fire extinguisher

Avoiding fire is so much better than surviving one. It can devastate your house and fire and water damage restoration will be necessary. Make sure to keep the immediate area around your house free from dead grass, fallen tree leaves, furniture, or log piles.

If you can extend this area to 30 feet (9.14 m), your house should be safe from most fires. Make sure your roofing has the best fire rating (Class A) and install metal flashing at the edge of your roof. Once you hear news of a nearby fire, clear out your gutters to prevent fallen leaves from becoming fuel to a wayward ember. Use tempered glass on your windows, so they won’t easily break. All these measures are meant for an abandoned house. Once a wildfire hits, evacuate as soon as possible and count on your preparations and safeguards to keep your house safe.

Expect wildfires to be bigger and more frequent. However, with safeguards in place — your home can avoid most of the damage and stay relatively safe.

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