Recent wildfires in North Carolina highlight home protection program
State officials say the number of homes destroyed by wildfires in recent weeks underscores the importance of using landscaping and other techniques to better protect homes from wildfires.
Wildfires have destroyed six homes since Feb. 14, and threatened more than 2,900 homes. The damage could have been far worse if not for the efforts of state and local firefighters.
For that reason, officials with the N.C. Division of Forest Resources are speaking with communities about the North Carolina Firewise Program. Firewise Communities/USA provides people with tips about landscaping around homes as well as creating areas in neighborhoods that are easily accessible by emergency vehicles.
Communities meet with an expert such as a county ranger and come up with a plan to remove fire hazards and create defensible space around homes. These techniques can be put in place in new or old communities.
Recommendations for creating a Firewise Community include removing the vegetation that serves as a link between grass and tree tops that can carry fire to a structure. Anything planted near homes should be low-flammability vegetation such as red chokeberry. Trees should be well spaced. Natural areas should be selectively pruned and thinned. Highly flammable vegetation such as American Holly should be removed.
Homeowners and developers should also use construction materials that are fire-resistant or non-combustible materials such as metal roofing. Other suggestions for making your home Firewise include:
- Clearing dead wood and dense vegetation 30 feet from your home.
- Keeping gutters, eaves and roofs clear of leaves and other debris.
- Maintaining a driveway wide enough for fire engines to access.
- Regularly inspecting the home to look for deterioration such as spaces between roof tiles, warping wood or cracks and crevices in the structure.
- Moving firewood away from the home or fences and decks.
- Using metal when constructing a trellis and covering it with vegetation that contains moisture.
- Not allowing combustible materials and debris to accumulate beneath patio decks or elevated porches.
For more information, go to www.ncfirewise.org or the national website, www.firewise.org, or contact Brian R. Haines, public information officer with the N.C. Division of Forest Resources, at (919) 857-4828.