Wildfire preparedness: A homeowner’s guide


Wildfires are an increasingly common hazard in many parts of the world, threatening homes and communities and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. For homeowners, the prospect of facing a wildfire can be daunting, raising questions about how to best protect your property, your loved ones, and your financial investment. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of how to protect your home from wildfires, covering the necessary steps and precautions to take to minimize risk and ensure safety in a wildfire. 


Key tips to protect your home from wildfires

1. Create a defensible space
Creating a defensible space around your home is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of wildfire damage. Clear away any flammable objects within at least 30 feet of your home. Flammable objects may include dry or dead vegetation, lawn furniture, wood piles, tires, and garbage cans to name a few. This buffer zone not only reduces the chance of a wildfire reaching your property but also provides a safe space for firefighters to operate if necessary. Plan and arrange your home’s design and landscaping with wildfire safety as a priority. 


2. Use fire-resistant building materials
When it comes to materials for your home’s exterior, choosing fire-resistant options can make a significant difference. Roofing and siding made from metal, brick, or stucco offer better protection against the heat and flames of a wildfire. 


3. Maintain your property
Regular maintenance is key to minimizing potential fire hazards. Keeping your gutters, roof, and yard clear of debris like leaves, twigs, and other combustible materials helps prevent embers from igniting these areas. 


4. Run your sprinklers
If you have the time a resources to do so, consider running sprinklers around and on your structures. This can increase the relative humidity in the air and may help to reduce the spread of wildfire. 


5. Have working flashlights handy
Be aware that in an emergency situation, you may lose power as a result of burning power lines. 


6. Install spark arrestors
Equipping your chimney and stovepipes with spark arrestors can prevent embers from escaping and starting fires nearby. It’s a simple measure that can greatly reduce the risk of ember-induced fires. Also ensure to inspect your chimneys biannually and clean them at least once per year. Maintain the dampers in optimal condition. 


7. Prepare an emergency kit
Have an emergency kit ready that includes important documents, medications, and essentials for your family and pets. This kit should be easily accessible so you can quickly evacuate if the need arises. Additionally, make sure to have a plan in place for how you will evacuate and where you will go. 


Further steps to take to protect an existing home or cottage 

  • Clear trees and brush within five feet of the structure
    • Ensure to clear flammable objects such as trees and debris within five feet of flammable structures, such as your home, deck, or wooden fence. If possible, clearing tress up to 30 feet away is recommended, but if that isn’t possible for you, five feet will help a lot. 
  • Clear branches that hang over the structure
    • If a tree is more than five feet away, but there are branches that hang over a structure, ensure to trim the limbs that hang over the structure back 10 feet. 
  • Do not use flammable mulch close to your home 
    • Do not to use flammable mulch, such as cedar chips within five feet of your home. If an ember from wildfire falls in the mulch, a fire can quickly start and spread. Instead use non-flammable materials close go your home, such as crushed rock. 
  • Provide breaks between structures or trees
    • It is possible that heat coming from flames up to 30 feet away can cause a structure to ignite. A wildfire’s progress can be slowed, and structures may be spared by providing breaks between trees, sheds, wooden fences, and the home. Wherever possible, provide breaks in flammable objects, up to 30 feet from the building. 


Beyond wildfire prevention  

Understanding wildfire signs and staying informed 

Knowing the signs of an impending wildfire and staying informed about local fire conditions are vital. Stay updated by signing up for local emergency alerts and monitoring local news sources for information on wildfires in your area. 


Evacuation plans 

Understanding when to evacuate, where to go, and how to ensure the safety of your family and pets is critical. Develop a detailed evacuation plan that includes safe routes and a designated meeting point. Practice this plan regularly so everyone knows what to do if an evacuation is ordered. The Government of Canada put together a great resource that walks you through building an emergency plan.  


Financial implications and insurance 

The financial implications of wildfire damage can be significant. It’s important to understand what your home insurance policy covers in the event of a wildfire. Consider talking to your insurance advisor at Westland to ensure your coverage is adequate and to make any adjustments if necessary. It’s best to thoroughly understand your coverage now to avoid any unexpected surprises later on. 


Fostering community preparedness

Wildfires affect entire communities, and preparedness is a collective effort. Engage with your neighbors to share plans and resources. Collaborative efforts, such as community clean-up activities to remove flammable materials, can enhance safety for everyone. 


Resources for creating a wildfire action plan 

Many resources are available to help you create a comprehensive wildfire action plan. A comprehensive plan should include everything from how to create a defensible space to the steps to follow when evacuating. You can keep an eye on the status of your area during a wildfire by using the Fire Weather Maps on Natural Resources Canada. For additional resources and information, refer to the resources available from the Government of Canada.


To protect your home from wildfires involves a combination of preparation, awareness, and proactive measures. By taking the steps outlined in this guide, you can help safeguard your property, prepare for emergencies, and respond effectively to the threat of wildfires. If you have questions about your home insurance coverage or want more tips on protecting your home from wildfires this summer, reach out to our team of insurance advisors. We’re here to help you through every season, ensuring your home and family are protected. 

For more information on how to protect your home from wildfires and to discuss your home insurance options, connect with us. If you’re ready to get started on a home insurance quote, click below. 


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