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Being FireWise starts with you.

As residents of an area that is prone to wildfires, it is important that we acknowledge the dangers that exist around us, and take the appropriate actions to protect ourselves well before a wildfire starts. Together, we can prepare our homes and communities for living more safely with wildfire.

Wildfires are common here, and many residences in Chelan County have been threatened in recent years. We encourage you to educate yourself on recent fire history in North Central Washington. 

What is your risk?

Until you learn more about what a wildfire can do in your area, it is difficult to plan for it. A wildfire risk assessment of your home’s structure(s) and landscape can help you identify your risk. 

Contact Chelan County Fire District #3, Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition, or the Cascadia Conservation District for a free home assessment.

Having an expert assess your risk of wildfire damage to your home and property will help you develop a plan to reduce those risks.

What should you do?

Educate yourself and take action. Want to know where to begin? Watch this video:

Courtesy of the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition, here's what residents, forest landowners, and businesses need to know.

FAQs about wildfire safety from Firewise USA®

An overwhelming number of brush, grass and forest fires (between 87 and 96 percent) are caused by people, according to statistics collected by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and the National Fire Incident Reporting System. 

While about 20% of all such fires are intentionally set, most human-caused fires are accidental and related to careless disposal of hot embers, ash or cigarettes.

Regardless of the cause, local fire departments in the U.S. responded to an average of 356,800 such fires annually between 2004 and 2008. See the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the NIFC for more information on wildfire causes and frequency.

There are many reasons that people live in areas where fires occur, and those reasons vary from place to place. Many people have migrated from more urban settings and may have little experience or understanding of the local fire risk. Many seek out the beauty and privacy of developments in the woods. Some enjoy the rugged outdoor lifestyle that living near nature affords.

Remember that brush, grass and forest fires can and do occur nearly everywhere in the United States. 

Local fire departments are the first responders, and always make their best efforts to deal with fires of any kind. But fires in brush, grass or forests pose a special challenge. First, it may take firefighters longer to find out about the fire if it starts in the woods or a field. They may not get a call until the fire is threatening homes.

Second, about 85% of our nation’s fire departments rely on volunteers. Depending on when the fire happens, it may be difficult for the volunteer departments to respond as quickly as they would like.

Third, wildfires grow in strength as they run uphill. A fire in steep and hilly terrain makes it difficult to access with a fire truck or even on foot.

Finally, if your home or neighborhood is remote from water supplies and has narrow, winding roads and driveways, it is especially challenging to fight fire at each structure. If dozens of homes in your area are threatened, chances are there are not enough firefighters, fire trucks, or water supplies to protect every home.

Ultimately, there’s no guarantee that firefighters will be able to protect your home during a wildfire. It’s your responsibility to prepare your home and private property before a fire threatens your area. Taking action now means your home or community has a better chance of reducing the damage from wildfire without additional protection.

Assuming you are adequately insured, most homeowner policies do typically cover property losses cause by brush, grass or forest fire. However, most policies do not cover home landscaping and plants that could be destroyed in a wildland fire. And no policy can replace personal items such as photographs, artwork and other memorabilia.

The Insurance Information Institute recommends an annual insurance check-up so that you understand what is and is not covered in your homeowners insurance policy. You can also create a home inventory to help get your insurance claim settled faster in the event of fire loss. Visit the “Know Your Stuff” page for a free home inventory tool.

Typically, individual improvement efforts by homeowners are not reflected in discounts to their policy premiums. Most insurance rates are set using other factors, including community fire protection resources such as the presence of fire hydrants. In addition, fire protection is only one small piece of the insurance policy, so discounts for fire protection would be fairly small if they were available.

In areas where wildfires have caused damage, you may find that your insurance company is conducting on-site inspections to recommend wildfire safety actions. Companies that incur large losses from wildfire may be less likely to continue to offer insurance in areas that they consider high-risk. See the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association website for more important information about insurance and wildland fires.

Most homes that burn during a wildfire are ignited by embers or firebrands landing on the roof, in gutters, on or under decks and porches, or in vents or other openings in the home. Other homes burn from small flames (surface fire) that can touch the house – such as dry grass that can allow a fire to run right up to the siding. The Firewise Communities Program is a great place start and find resources and action steps you can use around your home and working your way out into the landscape.

A wildfire safety tips sheet is available on NFPA’s safety information page. You can also find additional information about how to create defensible space around your home on the Firewise website.

Firewise communities are those that have taken appropriate measures to become more resistant to wildfire structural damage. An online Firewise Toolkit, including a Firewise tips checklist for homeowners, is available on the Firewise website.

Firewise techniques include minimizing the risk of home ignition by carefully landscaping around residential structures such as thinning trees and brush and choosing fire-resistant plants, selecting ignition-resistant building materials and positioning structures away from slopes.

In addition, communities that have earned the special distinction of being recognized under the Firewise USA Program have followed a systematic approach to organizing and implementing a Firewise mitigation plan in their neighborhood. Program criteria and additional information about the Program can be found on the Firewise website.

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