Living safely with wildfires
Nearly 100,000 wildfires burn approximately seven million acres of land each year, according to the International Association of Wildland Fire statistics. Three percent of those fires cause major damage in areas where development meets woodlands, known as the wildland-urban interface.
Since 1990, 4,000 acres of woodlands are developed each day — two million acres a year — according to statistics. State foresters have identified 220 million acres of land with timber nationwide that are at risk for fires because of their proximity to 46 million single-family homes, several hundred thousand businesses and more than 120 million people.
Firefighters and civilians perish each year in these fires, many of which occur in areas that do not have any construction codes and standards pertaining to the wildland-urban interface. What can you do? The International Code Council strongly recommends officials in at-risk communities adopt codes such as the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (IWUIC) and help educate residents and businesses about what they can do to stay safe and prevent wildfires.
By visiting Protect Your Home from Wildfire you can glean valuable information to protect your homes and businesses, including:
- Maintaining your landscaping. Fires spread easily from burning leaves and dead brush. Keep your gutters, eaves and roof clear of leaves and other debris.
- Choosing plants with high moisture content. They are more fire-resistive and can help to create a firebreak around your home. Mow your grass and control the height and spread of ground covering vegetation. Keep plants 12-18 inches away from the house.
- Considering decks, porches, fences and out-buildings part of your home. Fences act like fuses or fuel bridges. They can lead a fire right to your home. A combustible wood fence and/or trellis attached to your house greatly increases the house’s potential to ignite. Keep combustible vegetation away from fencing. Consider fire-resistant fencing or placing fencing away from structures when making improvements.
The National Association of Counties, National Association of State Foresters, Society of American Foresters and the Western Governors’ Association offer a handbook to help communities develop a plan. They also offer a Community Wildfire Protection Plan to identify the resources and strategies to protect your community. You can find links to both the Code Council’s Wildfire Information and Resources page.
With proper regulation and care, woodlands can continue to provide scenery while homes and businesses are secure. We at the International Code Council encourage you to learn more about living safely with wildfires.