Wildfire protection starts in these 5 places

(BPT) – As recent wildfires in California and other parts of the U.S. have shown, nature’s wrath is a good reminder to evaluate your own home’s safety. If you live in a wildfire-prone area, it’s essential to stave off potential damage long before flames rage toward your doorstep, experts warn.

And one of the best ways to do that is to take a look at the home itself.

“It’s not just where you live that determines your home’s risk of loss from wildfire,’ says Rob Galbraith, director of underwriting at United Services Automobile Association (USAA). “It’s a combination of the house materials, the house design and then everything in the home ignition zone – within 5 feet, 30 feet and 100 feet of the property line – that makes the difference in improving the survivability of your home.”

Galbraith recommends paying special attention to these five spots around your house:

The roof: Ensure yours is rated Class A, which means the covering and underlayment provide the most-effective resistance to fire. It’s a big-ticket item for homeowners, but the most critical design item when it comes time to replace an aging roof.

The gutters: Keep them free of debris such as leaves and pine needles, which can be ignited by swirling embers.

The foundation: It’s best that decks, porches and fences be made of non-flammable materials. Keeping their surface areas clear is also critical. Screening porches and decks with fine, metal mesh can help prevent embers from sweeping in to ignite leaves and other debris.

The windows and vents: Double-paned or tempered glass better withstand approaching heat. And, if possible, build in under-eave and side-roof vents to make it more difficult for the wind to blow in embers.

The landscaping: Keep organic flammable materials such as trees, shrubbery and even mulch from contact with your house. They can lead fire right to the siding. Store firewood at least 30 feet from the house because of the intense heat and large flames they create when ignited.

Beyond these simple mitigation tips, property owners should also look into other resources that are likely available to them. USAA provides members with access to multiple programs and services at no cost to help property owners mitigate wildfire-related property losses. The Wildfire Response Program allows private firefighters to access their property during an active wildfire to take final mitigation efforts such as clearing debris and even extinguishing spot fires. Additionally, USAA members living within the boundaries of recognized Firewise Communities may be eligible for a discount on their homeowners insurance premiums. For more information regarding USAA’s wildfire tools and services, please visit USAA.com and search “wildfire.”