Getting Ready for Wildfire Season in Canada

May 24, 2024
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Last year, wildfires forced the entire evacuation of Yellowknife and wreaked havoc across Canada. With predictions pointing to a more severe season in 2024 due to a warm fall and mild winter, there’s a pressing need for everyone to prepare effectively for earlier, longer, and more intense wildfires.

Here’s a straightforward guide to prepare yourself and your home for wildfire season:

Clean Up Around Your Home

Focus on the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ), which spans 30 meters around your home, divided into three parts:

Extended Zone (10 – 30 meters): In this area, prioritize thinning and pruning to create more space between trees, reducing the chance of fire spreading. Clear away any accumulated fallen branches, dry grass, and needles to eliminate potential fire fuel. Grass should be kept mowed and watered to reduce fire spread potential.

Intermediate Zone (1.5 – 10 meters): This area should act as a buffer, containing low-growing, fire-resistant plants and hard surfaces that can slow a fire’s approach. Remove any dead or dying vegetation and avoid storing flammable materials like firewood, which should be kept out of this zone and closer to the Extended Zone. Preferred landscaping materials include rock gardens and open, irrigated lawns.

Immediate Zone (0 – 1.5 meters): The area closest to your home should be the most rigorously managed. Use non-combustible materials such as gravel, brick, or concrete in this zone to form a barrier against flames and embers. Ensure that roofing materials are fire-resistant and keep gutters free of plant debris. Attachments and features like decks should also be constructed from fire-resistant materials or treated to enhance their resilience against fire.

Create an Emergency Plan

Understanding the wildfire risks specific to your region is essential. Educate every household member about these risks, focusing on smoke and air quality. Create an emergency plan that includes all family members and pets, and assemble a kit with essential supplies. Learn about local emergency procedures and have a planned evacuation route.

Make Your Home Safer

Removing fire hazards like dried-out branches and debris is crucial. Install smoke detectors on every floor and test them regularly to ensure they work. Your home should also be equipped with fire extinguishers, and residents should familiarize themselves with fire safety exit plans.

Prepare for Wildfire Smoke

To safeguard your home from wildfire smoke, ensure all gaps around windows and doors are sealed. Consider using a HEPA air purifier and keeping windows shut to improve its effectiveness. Reduce indoor air pollution by avoiding activities like burning candles or using gas stoves that generate smoke or fumes. Stay informed about the air quality in your area by regularly checking the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) for updates. Prioritize the safety of sensitive groups such as children, the elderly, and those with health conditions by maintaining clean indoor air.

Be Ready to Evacuate

Keep your vehicle ready with enough fuel, assist neighbours who might need help, and know the essential items to take with you. Pay attention to local advisories and be prepared to evacuate quickly if needed.

After the Fire

After a wildfire, stay updated with local news for any safety instructions. If your property is damaged, take photos for insurance claims, but only enter your home after professionals confirm it’s safe. Also, ensure utilities like gas are checked and securely restored.

Preparing our homes, lives, and communities for wildfires requires proactive steps and a clear understanding of associated risks. The strategies recommended in this guide are designed to mitigate the harmful effects of wildfire smoke on our health and ensure our homes are ready to withstand a wildfire threat.

Securing a comprehensive insurance policy specific to wildfire risks can offer both financial protection and peace of mind. If you’re worried about your home’s ability to survive a wildfire, we are here to support you. Our team of insurance specialists is dedicated to discovering the most effective insurance options to safeguard your home and valued possessions. By working together, we can enhance the safety and security of our homes and communities in the face of wildfires’ unpredictable nature.

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