Wildfire Preparedness in the age of Social Distancing

Home Hazard Assessment guide

Wildfire Preparedness in the age of Social Distancing: Steps you can take to mitigate the risks before the fire happens

                                                                                        by Tyler Gilbert, Forest Stewards Guild - Gravitas Peak Wildland Fire Module

At this point, every part of the world has experienced some level of effects from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). While events like concerts and conferences are being cancelled left and right, it’s important to remember that wildfire season will not be cancelled, even in the time of a global pandemic. Emergency response will likely not be as durable as it has been in years past, due to a myriad of cascading effects COVID-19 has placed on Emergency Responders. Nevertheless, there is something that can be done to help improve your homes’ resilience to wildfire and spark community-wide resilience, while still maintaining social distancing practices.

Starting at home

Look around your house, do you have adequate defensible space? Removing flammable materials from the exterior of, and from the immediate 100’ area encompassing the home is a huge first step in mitigating the risk of losing your home to wildfire. Don’t forget about commonly missed areas like clogged gutters and debris-covered rooftops. Additionally, plant native species around your home by doing diligent research regarding what native plants are found in your area. Do not rely on the tags on plants at box-stores that read “native,” as native plants will differ from location to location.

Moving outward from your home, it is also important to remember what kind of large-scale land management activities you are capable of doing on your land. Consulting a land management professional to help guide you through the process of producing a management plan is a great first step in working towards a plan of resilience for your property.  Land management plans look into the health and vitality of your property long-term, and can be goal-specific with recommendations tailor made to improve your properties’ fate against a destructive wildfire.

You can use the Forest Steward Guild’s Home Hazard Assessment workbook and worksheet to identify specific risks to your home and then work on mitigating those risks.

Community Involvement in an Era of Social Distancing

It is extremely impactful to remember that there is a great deal of work that can start at home. Working on a community-level protection plan from the comfort of one’s home has never been so easy. Organized teleconferencing or online townhall meetings featuring a professional in the field of forestry or land management can have huge impacts without the implicit risks of large gatherings during this time. Contact a subject matter expert, such as a representative from your local United States Forest Service office, to learn more about community-level projects you and your neighbors can safely participate in. Doing so is sure to improve the community’s literacy about pre-existing programs designed to help improve wildfire resilience.

Quick Tips:

  • Sign up to receive local emergency alerts.
  • Set up a neighborhood text tree that lets you send an email via text. This allows for rapid and detailed sharing of emergency information in your neighborhood.
  • Prepare your home as much as you can for wildfire. While maintaining social distancing, help neighbors that may require additional support.
  • Being prepared for a disaster means being ready before it happens. Prepare an evacuation kit or go bag.

Additional Resources:

Wildfire Preparation and Information

General Information on COVID-19