wildfires have been in the news for over a month now. Most recently, theWenatchee complex fire has gathered a lot of attention but in mid-September,
there are seven fires burning in the eastern part of Washington and the
governor has declared a burn ban on all outdoor and agricultural burning in
Eastern Washington. Washington is not alone in having a severe fire season;
there are many fires burning throughout the Western states. There is even a
website that maps wildfires in the US and provides status updates on each fire;
you can find it here.
Wildfires are a
danger every year in the United States.
There were 294 recorded between 1980 and 2008 and their annual costs
exceeded $1.4 billion a year; 57 people a year died in these fires, including
some from the Olympic Peninsula. Nearly 200,000 people every year are affected
by wildfires through loss, evacuation or temporary displacement.
Your Washington homeowners insurance covers losses due to fire, but if you live in an area with
a high fire danger you may not realize that your risk of fire may have an
impact on your insurance premiums. Insurance companies consider factors such as
distance from a fire station, the amount of brush in the area and home
construction type when setting rates. If there is a history of wildfires in thearea it may even be difficult to find a company willing to underwrite insurance. An organization called the Insurance Services Office actually
maintains information on the performance of fire services and provides a rating
through a Public Protection Classification. The classification scheme runs from
1 to 10 and if your classification is at 10 it may actually be difficult to
find an insurer willing to underwrite.
If you live in an
area that may be susceptible to wildfires, there are things that you can do to
help reduce your risk. One of the most important things to do is to create a
defensible space around your house. Experts recommend at least a 30 foot
noncombustible area be created around your home to provide a buffer against an
approaching fire. This means cutting grass and weeds and making sure your yard
and particularly your roof are kept clean of potentially combustible materials.
If you have a woodpile, stack your wood away from buildings, again the
recommended distance is at least 30 feet. When planting around your house,
choose fire resistant trees or plants, but remember that fire resistant doesn’t
mean fireproof and any plants that are allowed to dry out and die can present a
fire hazard. There are excellent publications available that can help you select fire resistant plants. You should also prone branches that hang low to
the ground. This may help keep branches away from a low burning grass fire. You
should also consider your roof and determine whether or not it is fire
resistant. These steps may help you or the fire department defend your home in
the event of a wildfire.