Coming home post-wildfire will always be nerve-wracking. You may have been away for weeks, and you don’t know what you’re going to find when you get there.
If you take the following steps, you’ll be able to safely return home and prevent further damage to your home from fire.
Returning Home Post-Wildfire
Once the fires have stopped, you’ll want to think about returning home. The very first thing you should do is wait for the all clear from the fire service. Once they’ve declared it safe to go back, you can go back home and assess the situation.
Check outdoors: There may still be some hazards outdoors that you need to be aware of, so be careful post-wildfire when you go back home. Take a look at trees and poles near your home. They may well be charred, and if they’re still smoking, it will still be dangerous.
There also may be hot embers in various spots that you need to check. Look in your guttering, under decks and crawl spaces, and on the lawn. Also, look for white ash, as this is a sign there’s hot material still around.
Take the time to look for downed electrical cables on the ground. If you see any, don’t approach them. Instead, call 911 for help.
Clear away any debris: If you see any debris around your home, you’re going to want to clear it away ASAP. It will pose a fire risk to your home, so it’s essential you clear it first before you go inside. This will keep you safer if more fires break out.
Look in the attic: You should check in your attic to see if any hot embers remain there. They can easily come in through the air vents, and pose a serious risk to your home even after the fire has passed.
Check the phone: Check to see if your phone lines are still working. If they’re down, you’ll need to look into having them repaired sooner rather than later.
Check the electrics: Before you turn on anything in your home, you need to be sure no damage has been done to the electrical system. Check the circuit breaker, to see if it’s suffered any fire damage. If it seems to be o.k., then turn off all electrical appliances in your home before you flip it back on. If you see any sign of damage, don’t turn the electrics on until you’ve hired an electrician to come repair the damage.
Check your alarms: Take a look around the alarm system to see if it’s still working. Fire can damage wiring, so you’ll want to see if it’s still working.
Call 911: If you see any damage to your home, or anything that puts it at risk of fire, you need to call 911 ASAP. The fire service will come and handle the risks for you, to make your home safe again.
Once you’re in your home post-wildfire, you should think about making your home fire resistant. The best way to do that is to landscape your garden with fire resistant plants. What’s great about these kind of plants is that they’re drought resistant, too.
No plant is totally fire resistant, but there are many that resist ignition and will slow down the spread of fire. These include plants like aloe, ice plant, and rockrose. High moisture plants that grow close to the ground are always a good idea if you’re in an area that’s at risk of wildfire.
There are less flammable trees you can plant too. Rather than using firs and pines in your yard, use cherry, maple and poplar trees to slow down wildfires. There’s other ways you can make your gardens fire resistant, too. Stone walls around the perimeter are always a good idea, as are patios, decks, and walkways.
Be Aware of Watershed Impacts
Post-wildfire, there is the risk of excessive erosion and water run off. During the high temperatures of a fire, soil can bake and become impervious to water. That means that it won’t absorb rain water, allowing it to run off and create further problems.
Before leaving a burned area, you’ll see that expert teams will come and install measures to help reduce this impact. They will install waterbars, mulch fire lines, repair road drainage, and more. Even with those measures in place, it’s best to be aware of the risk of run off in your area.
Preparing Your Home
Now that the risk has passed, you can start preparing, in case it ever happens again. You don’t want to imagine it happening, but it’s much better to prepare and be ready.
Create an evacuation plan: What will you do if a wildfire comes near your home? You’ll need to get everyone out safely. That means creating an evacuation plan and practicing it with everyone in your home. Ensure everyone knows the plan, and that they can get out quickly if needs be. Remember to include any pets in this plan.
Put together an evacuation kit: You’ll need supplies if you need to get away in a hurry. Put together this kit now and have it ready to go, should you hear of more fire warnings. This kit should include things like basic first aid supplies, food and bottled water, blankets, flashlights, clothes, and more. Having this ready will save you a lot of time and stress should you need to evacuate again.
Sign up for notifications: In your area, you may find you can sign up for notifications if you’re at risk of fire. Find out where you can sign up for these alerts and make sure you’re subscribed.
The Bottom Line
Now you have all the information to keep you and your family safe post-wildfire. Use caution when returning home, and if you find anything dangerous call 911 as soon as possible. Once you’re back home, prepare yourselves in the event that this happens again. If you do this, you will all be safe after a fire.