The current weather conditions (Dec 2022) have increased fire danger in Western North Carolina. Dry ground, wind activity, and a pile up of fuel is a recipe for disaster if a fire gets out. Fuels are anything that can burn in a fire – grasses, shrubs, trees, dead leaves, and fallen pine needles. As these dry burnable materials pile up, so do the chances of a catastrophic wildfire. Excess fuel allows fires to burn hotter, larger, longer, and faster, making them more difficult and dangerous to manage.
Wildfires can be unpredictable but you can take action NOW to protect your home from ignition.
Houses and other developments near forests or other undeveloped areas (aka: the wildland urban interface) are vulnerable to wildfires because they’re essentially surrounded by fuel. The extent and density of vegetation around a structure influence the ability of firefighters to prevent it from burning in a wildfire. Fuel treatments (aka: wildfire mitigation) make unwanted wildfires less likely and easier to manage.
Residents can create defensible space, a non-combustible buffer, around at least 30 feet of their home to lower the chances of a wildfire igniting their home. Simple tasks such as clearing leaves and dead vegetation off roofs and decks, out of gutters, and at least 30 feet from the home can help your home survive a wildfire. Other tasks to consider doing now before a fire is in your area:
Move combustible items such as gas tanks, scrap wood piles, and leaves from underneath your deck and at least 30 feet from your home.
Do not store more than a day’s worth of firewood closer than 30 feet from your home.
Check weather and drought conditions before burning yard debris (North Carolina is currently under a burn ban; no open burning within 100 feet of the home.)
Prune tree branches and shrubs within 10 feet of your home’s siding and roof, especially ones close to chimneys and stove pipes.
Prune branches of large trees to 6-10 feet above the ground.
Keep lawn mowed, watered, and at a height of 4 inches or less.
By learning to live with fire, we improve public and firefighter safety and reduce impacts of fire when it occurs.
Other Homeowner Resources:
Home ignition zone checklist can be found on the Firewise USA website: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Wildfire/Preparing-homes-for-wildfire.
Using a personalized “Wildfire Action Guide” can be helpful to prepare for evacuation: https://www.iafc.org/docs/default-source/pdf/rsg-eag.pdf
NCFS’s Wildfire Public Viewer for current fire activity and information: https://ncfspublic.firesponse.com/
Mountain Valleys’ Firewise website with more information about wildfire preparedness and resources: https://www.mountainvalleysrcd.org/forest