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July 21, 2024

Tips to Help Your Home Survive a Wildfire

Every year, devastating wildfires burn across the United States. At the same time, a growing number of people are living where wildfires are a real risk. While these fires will continue to happen, there are things you can do to protect your home and neighborhood as well as your family’s safety.
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Studies show that as many as 80 percent of homes lost to wildland fire may have been saved if brush around the homes were cleared and defensible space created around structures. There is no better time than now to prepare and educate your family, friends and neighbors. Make sure everyone knows what to do to protect people and homes in case of fire.

——- Dr. Jack Cohen, a highly respected expert on wildfire behavior and fire science research, explains how fireproofing your home can help protect it from wildfire.

A high intensity flame from a wildfire is less likely to ignite the home than “fire brands”—the hot embers that are spit from the intense flames and then deposited on flammable materials on or surrounding the home. That’s why it’s recommended you use landscaping as one of the defensive methods against wildfire.

Jack shows how leaves, pine needles, and other debris from wooded areas can become easy fuel for fire brands. Fire-resistant furniture and home building materials can also help protect your home from being destroyed by a wildfire.

Learn more about wildfire prevention and mitigation at http://www.firewise.org and http://www.nfpa.org/wildfire. Also visit http://www.disastersafety.org/wildfire for additional resources.

What are the primary threats to homes during a wildfire?

Research around home destruction vs. home survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames as the main way that the majority of homes ignite in wildfires. Embers are burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind can cause spot fires and ignite homes, debris and other objects.

There are methods for homeowners to prepare their homes to withstand ember attacks and minimize the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the home or any attachments. Experiments, models and post-fire studies have shown homes ignite due to the condition of the home and everything around it, up to 200’ from the foundation. This is called the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ).

Learn more about how wildfires spread and ignite home in our online course  Understanding the Wildfire Threat to Homes. An overview of fire history, fire basics, and how homes burn.

Download the How to Prepare Your Home From Wildfire Fact Sheet in English or Spanish.

Oregon Garden Fire Safety House guide​https://www.oregon.gov/odf/Documents/fire/fire-safety-house.pdf

Keeping Your Home and Property Safe from Wildfire – A Defensible Space and Fuel Reduction Guide for Homeowners and Landowners: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pub/em-9184-keeping-your-home-property-safe-wildfire

Two important steps in creating defensible space are:

  • Landscaping with fire-resistant plants.
  • Reducing flammable vegetation and other fuels around the home.

Also, take steps to make the home itself more resistant to fire, such as:

  • Screen attic and foundations vents to prevent entry of embers. Also known as firebrands, embers are burning pieces of wood flying through the air.
  • Use fire-resistant roofing, decking, and siding.
  • Screen undersides of decks to keep out embers.
  • Regularly remove leaves and pine needles from gutters.
  • Remove brush and grass around outbuildings.

OSU Extension Service — How to prepare your home for a wildfire evacuation: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/forests/fire/how-prepare-your-home-wildfire-evacuation


Oregon Department of Forestry | Salem OR


Oregon Department of Forestry’s mission to protect, manage and promote stewardship of our forests begins with fire prevention. Make fire prevention a priority in your life by following rules and regulations and being good stewards of the land. Stay up-to-date with fire restrictions by visiting our fire restrictions map.

Browse the rest of our site below for additional fire prevention and safety tips whether you’re at home, at work, or play. https://www.oregon.gov/odf/fire/pages/fireprevention.aspx

Let’s Keep Oregon Green for this generation and generations to come.

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