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Homeland Security


History   |   Fire Protection in Undeveloped Areas   |   Fuels
The Existing Home   |   Fire Safety Checkist   |   As A Last Resort

The Existing Home

Firesafe recommendations in this publication also apply to existing homes, but there are some additional recommendations for improvements.

Urban dwellers' prime concern is a fire starting inside their homes. Rural residents must also consider fire from outside the home, such as a wildfire endangering their structures.

Longer travel time for fire trucks means rural residents must be prepared to take initial action on fires. This may slow the fire until firefighters arrive.

Basic needs for exterior fire protection include:

  • Pre-connected garden hoses with nozzles attached to exterior water outlets. Hoses should be long enough to reach all structure exteriors.
  • A ladder that is long enough to allow access to roof areas should be stored in a convenient location.
  • A long-handled, round-point shovel and a 2 1/2 gallon water bucket, as minimum hand tools, should also be conveniently stored.

Additional hand tools such as rakes or grubbing and chopping tools might be recommended, depending on local fuels. Contact the fire protection agency for recommendations on these additional tools.

You should make an exterior inspection of your home annually to remove overhanging tree limbs close to your home. At the same time, you can maintain a fuel-free area around your home. Remove flammable material lodged against buildings, under foundations and in eaves. Remove leaves, moss or needles from roofs and gutters.

The increasing use of outdoor cooking equipment has caused a number of serious fires. Permanent outdoor fireplaces should be equipped with a screen over the outlet and a method of controlling in-draft. Screens should be constructed of non-flammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch. At least five feet should be cleared of flammable material around permanent outdoor fireplaces with no overhanging limbs closer than 15 feet.

Portable barbecues present a special problem; extra caution must be used in disposing of briquettes after use. These should be placed in a closed metal container located in a safe place or extinguished in a bucket of water.

Electrical lines leading from the main power line to houses or outbuildings start many fires. These lines should be installed underground wherever possible, but if this cannot be done, trim all limbs that could contact the wires.

Vegetation should not be allowed to grow up under lines. Inform the local power company of any hazardous trees or limbs that could contact their lines. Power companies are fire-conscious and will remove these hazards. Make certain that all electrical wiring during initial construction and future remodeling conforms to local electrical codes.

Interior fire protection covers a variety of recommendations. If some form of fire protection service is servicing your area, ask them to inspect your house for potential problems and make recommendations.

Homeowners should consider fire-warning devices, such as smoke detectors and portable fire extinguishers. The proper location, type and size of these devices may make the difference between controlling a small fire and complete loss of the structure. Other protective measures include automatic sprinkler systems in the home and in other structures. Rural residents should seek recommendations from a fire protection agency to determine the type, size and installation location of all of these protective devices.

The most effective fire prevention device yet invented is a FIRESAFE attitude developed by the rural resident. While fire insurance might replace property destroyed in a fire, there is no insurance available to replace human life - yours, your family's, or your neighbors.

With a positive fire prevention attitude and by following preventative measures suggested in this guide, you can enjoy your rural home with confidence.