Wildfire protection tips for your home and family
With record rainfall in many parts of Colorado this year, wildfire mitigation may not be the first thing on your mind right now. But, if you live anywhere near a wildfire-prone area, perhaps it should be. Keep your home protected from wildlife danger with these helpful tips.
While the total number of wildfires in the U.S. was lower than normal in 2014, 63,312 wildfires still destroyed more than 3.6 million acres of land (National Interagency Fire Bureau). Even with last year’s down numbers, in the Rocky Mountain region, wildfire continues to be a growing threat, as anyone who witnessed the recent Waldo Canyon, Black Forest and Fourmile Canyon fires can attest.
Like many home insurance issues, good preparation is the key to minimizing losses. Here are a few simple, preventative measures you can take that will go a long way to help protect your home from future wildfires.
Do some “firescaping”
The spring rains may bring us bountiful summer flowers. But they’ve also brought more growth of grasses and weeds that can increase wildfire potential if drier conditions return. Space out trees and other plants to reduce their risk of spreading a fire. Remove loose tree limbs that are within 10 feet of the house, a deck, or a chimney, and keep other trees and shrubs well-pruned. Remove dead, damaged and diseased wood from your property. Even keeping grass cut to three or four inches helps, just be sure to remove or mulch the clippings.
Firescaping your property also includes selecting plants and landscape features that reduce fire danger. While no plants are 100% fireproof, choosing plants that are high in moisture, and grow close to the ground will provide added protections. It is also helpful to choose plants that have a low sap or resin content (think ice plant or aloe). Hardwood trees like maple and poplar are more fire resistant than pine or other conifers.
Have a plan for defense
Create a defensible perimeter around your home. Stone walls, moisture retaining mulch and rock can all be used as fire barriers. Remove debris and locate flammables such as woodpiles and propane tanks away from structures. Your local fire department can tell you about any specific requirements for your community, and the Colorado State Forest Service has helped to put together some detailed information about defensible spacing guidelines and further tips to help decrease the risk of spreading wildfire on or through you property.
Make your house a fortress
On the house itself, keep roof and gutters clear of leaves and debris. Because high winds often accompany a wildfire, screen foundation vents with ¼-inch mesh to prevent embers from blowing into your home—and put spark arrestors on chimneys to prevent burning embers from escaping. If you replace your roof, use fire-resistant Class A-rated material.
Last but not least, help firefighters help you. Ensure that your road or driveway is wide enough for emergency vehicles and that your house number is easily visible from the street, providing quick and easy access for fire fighting and support vehicles.
Wildfires can create nightmares for homeowners, especially if they aren’t covered with proper insurance. To make sure your homeowners policy has the right coverage that will help you repair or rebuild your home—including debris removal, rebuilding/repair of structure, code upgrades, loss of personal property and value, and living expenses contact your insurance representative.
Have you signed up for CODE RED?
Click Here to link to the Douglas County Wildfire Preparedness site. Download their phone application.
For information and non-emergencies, please use the to contact the law enforcement and fire protection districts protecting your area.
During an emergency evacuation, if you have to turn a horse out or leave one behind, a leg band with ownership information is a low-tech, but highly effective way to get reunited. For one online source of leg bands, click here. You can also write your information on a nylon halter. Just remember that nylon can melt. Leg bands can also be attached to halters.
Compile equine records. Get copies of identification, photographs, and proof of negative Coggins tests (for equine infectious anemia) for every horse on your property and don't forget your Brand Inspection papers. Put these in an off-site safe or carry them in a folder in your vehicle.
Make sure there are enough halters and lead ropes for every horse on your property. Put these in a prominent place so you can easily grab them in an emergency.
If you have to leave your animals place a sign pointing to where your animals are housed.
Check for hazards. Look around your facility for hazards. Make sure human and animal escape routes aren’t blocked by shipments of hay, farm equipment, non-working doors, bedding piles, etc.
If you have time, list the tasks specific to your barn that must be done before you leave, in case you need to evacuate. Include turning off the electricity, gas,
A sprinkler system is a good safety feature in a barn.
Invest in a radio. Invest in a radio and CB with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radio capability to keep up with the progress of the storm or hazard. Install weather applications on your smartphone and electronic tablet.
Assemble first-aid kits. Have first-aid kits (one for horses, one for humans) available at all times.
Emergency_Disaster Kit for your Horses
Compile veterinary papers. For every horse on your property, compile copies of microchip identification information, plus vaccination and deworming records, and proof of negative Coggins test and Brand Inspection. Place these papers in your vehicle. That way, you can take the horses to a local public evacuation shelter or legally cross state lines in a major evacuation.
Lay in feed/water supples. Have on hand or in your tow vehicle or trailer about three days’ supply of feed, water, medications, etc., for each horse being evacuated. Regularly refresh the feed supply.
Check into overnight stabling. Find available sheltering facilities across your state. Even better find overnight or short-term boarding facilities. Save their contact information with all your papers.
Plan evacuation transportation. How many trailer spaces do you have available? If you pack that four-horse gooseneck trailer with your four horses, where will you put your dogs, cats, and human family members? Would you have to make two trips to get the other four horses you own?
An emergency evacuation is no time to be dealing with balky loaders. Teach all the horses on your property to load quickly and effortlessly, no matter what. If you don't have a trailer, consider having at least 2 friends that you can call. Practice loading in their trailer.
Teach the horses to load. Teach all the horses on your property to load into a trailer, no matter what. Practice loading each horse alone. Practice at night, and when it’s raining, windy, dark, and generally miserable.
Develop an escape route. Drive through every road in your neighborhood to identify escape routes. Keep in mind that officials may close off many roads to enforce the evacuation. Do you have more than one way out by the roads to safety? Keep maps in every vehicle for reference in an emergency.
Decide where to meet. Choose in advance a place where everyone involved in your household and horsehold will be meet off-site, if you’re evacuated.
Perform Practice Drills
Post your evacuation plan where everyone can easily see it. Practice the plan with regular, surprise drills.
Think back to your school days and those monthly fire drills. The school probably emphasized asking everyone to remain quiet and calm while following each other to a prearranged place where they could verify that everyone was safely out of the building.
Hold an unannounced drill every six months for an evacuation of some type—fire, flood, tornado, etc. Vary the time of day and the requirements of the drill.
Practice catching all the horses and putting them in the barn for a simulated hailstorm. Load up every horse in a trailer, haul out a few miles, and return.
Stay or Go?
Carefully assess inclement weather versus a real disaster. To determine the extent of the disaster, consult your local emergency-management agencies, watch the weather channels, and install disaster- and weather-related applications on your smartphone and electronic tablet.
Follow breaking weather news, as well as your local police and sheriff departments, on Twitter for up-to-date information.
If you have more than two horses on your property, evacuate them very early in the case of wildfires, flooding, blizzards, and hurricanes. It takes a lot of manpower and space to move horses. You don’t want to be stranded with horses in the middle of a disaster.
What about inclement weather that doesn’t require you and your horse to leave the premises? The biggest question here is whether to leave them in or leave them out.
In general, leave horses out in the largest, best-built fenced pasture you have. Horses will find cover in a copse of trees if they need it, but normally will stand with their butts to the wind so that their hindquarter muscles will absorb any serious injury from flying debris, etc. These injuries heal very well.
Horses trapped in barns are subject to the flying debris all around them and the high possibility of a building fire or collapse.
Rebecca Gimenez,~ PhD (animal physiology), is a primary instructor for Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. As a logistics officer for the Veterinary Assistance Medical Team-2 and a Signal Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, Rebecca supported her deployed units in the field during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. She’s an invited lecturer on animal-rescue topics around the world and is a noted equine journalist.
Where are the primary shelters?
The Douglas/Elbert CART utilizes two primary shelters for human and animal sheltering during a disaster.
If these shelters are full or become unavailable due to the whereabouts of the disaster, Douglas/Elbert CART will provide alternative sheltering information at that time. During an emergency, monitor the Douglas County website and media outlets for the most up-to-date information regarding human and animal sheltering.
Why have a plan for personal livestock?
Thousands of Coloradans keep non-commercial livestock at their homes, including horses, donkeys, goats, llamas, alpacas, sheep and poetry. Families with animals find it difficult to evacuate, and sometimes refuse to leave without their animals. Plans help to support animal evacuation and sheltering are essential in the protection of both animals and people.
How should I prepare livestock for an emergency?
--Quality photographs of your livestock (with you in the picture is even better)
--Micro chip number and registration.
-- Make copies
Where can I go with my livestock during a disaster?
Identify friends or relatives who could house livestock in the short term, along with fairgrounds or other livestock evacuation locations identified by local emergency management and local livestock organizations.
What if I'm not home when the evacuation order is given?
Create a "Buddy Plan" with nearby neighbors, relatives or friends.
If someone else has to evacuate my livestock, how will they know where to contact me?
Post in your barn area the number and types of animals, the location of your disaster kit, and your emergency contact info.