Wildfires: Preparedness Actions
Have fire tools handy at your home and in your home:
- ladder, garden hoses, fire extinguishers, gas operated water pumps, shovels, rakes, and buckets.
- Purchase cotton rope or leather halters for horses and livestock because nylon halters can melt when they heat up in a fire. This may lead to deep burn wounds on the animal.
- Keep your horses’ tetanus vaccinations current.
Wildfires: Mitigation Measures
- Learn to recognize dangerous fire conditions and consult with your local fire department on how to improve the safety of your house and barns.
- Use only fire-resistant materials on the exterior of your home or barn, including the roof, siding, decking, and trim.
- Use fire-resistant plants on your property. Check with local fire officials or a nursery about the best species for your area.
- Clear leaves and other vegetation, including dead brush, from around your house or barn to serve as a fire break. The minimum distance for a fire break varies based on types of trees, the surrounding landscape slope, and the construction of buildings. You should consult with your local fire department or branch of the Department of Forestry to determine what is best for your property.
- Install sprinkler systems for buildings on your property, and lawn sprinkler systems outdoors. When constructing pools and ponds, make them accessible to fire equipment—they may serve as a source of water for fighting wildfires.
- Have hoses that are long enough to reach all parts of your building.
- Use fire carefully and wisely so that you do not cause a wildfire.
- Keep your chimney clean and install a spark arrestor.
- Avoid open burning during dry weather.
- Store firewood away from your home and barns.
- Store hay, sawdust, or straw in a building separate from where animals are housed. This is especially important during the summer when freshly cured hay can suddenly ignite from spontaneous combustion.
- Store gas and other hazardous materials in separate buildings from animals.
- Be extremely careful with open flame when shoeing horses or welding. Teach all personnel working with animals where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them.
- Implement and enforce no-smoking policies on your property.
- Practice a fire drill every month throughout the fire season.
Wildfires: Response Actions
- Wet down roofs and other surfaces that might be damaged by fire. Be sure that your efforts do not jeopardize the water supply and pressure needed by firefighters.
- If officials evacuate your area, leave immediately. House pets should be leashed/crated and taken with you.
- If you are evacuating horses when the fire is close, it may help to blindfold them. If there is time:
- Place pieces of cloth around the horses’ nostrils to reduce the inhalation of smoke.
- Wet the horses’ tails and manes.
- Remove blankets.
- If you are unable to take livestock with you, let them out of the barn and close all the doors. A horse may run back into a burning barn if it gets frightened.
- Turn off the power and gas.
- Disconnect any electrical fences.
Wildfires: Recovery Tips
- Monitor all animals exposed to fire for smoke inhalation pneumonia, the most common cause of fire-related death. Consult a veterinarian for any burn injuries.
- Check any areas where animals and people will be for dangerous debris. Galvanized metal heated during a fire may be coated with toxic residues. If this occurs to your pasture fences, they need to be cleaned before any animals come in contact with them.
- Don’t allow animals into areas where there may be ash pits (root systems that have burned underground).
- Take care when re-entering burned areas. There may be hot spots that could flare up without warning. Partially burned structures and trees can be very unstable, and may suddenly fall over.
- Do not tie animals to burned trees.
- Consult with your insurance agent and have damages assessed as soon as possible. Take pictures or a video of damages.
- Replant burned forests quickly and efficiently to reduce the soil erosion. Ask your State forestry commission for guidelines. Landslides, mud flows, and floods can follow wildfires due to vegetation damage.