From Maine to California and across the southwest, residents of more than 25 states across the U.S. are experiencing drought conditions this summer. Across the country, drought conditions range from abnormally dry to moderate, severe, extreme, and exceptional drought levels. During a severe drought, water shortages are common, and in an extreme drought, major crop losses can occur.
Dry conditions combined with high temperatures during the summer months make areas experiencing a drought even more vulnerable to wildfires. Below-average rainfall and other precipitation over an extended period of time dries out crops, soil, and wooded areas, making wildfires easier to start and harder to extinguish. In addition, reduced water in streams, rivers, and lakes can cause water shortages through an entire region, sometimes impacting multiple states at once.
Wildfires Impact Air Quality for Residents
Exceptional drought conditions are affecting U.S. residents in California, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Dozens of other states are experiencing abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions. Combined with rising temperatures and strong winds, dry vegetation can catch on fire from just one spark and quickly spread. Wildfires can start from electrical accidents or lightning storms, or from human acts like campfires and the use of power tools. Dry crops, wood, and other vegetation feed wildfires, causing a perfect storm that impacts thousands from just one spark.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, inhaling smoke from wildfires can be harmful to your health. Even if you can’t see smoke in the air, if you smell smoke from wildfires burning in your area, your health could be affected. Wildfire smoke is made up of gas and small particles from the wood and other burning materials. Breathing it in can aggravate your eyes and respiratory system. Coughing, burning eyes, and a runny nose are common side effects of smoke inhalation. People with serious health conditions, including lung or heart disease, often experience even more harmful effects.
To reduce the health risks from wildfire smoke inhalation, consider installing a high-efficiency HVAC filter in your home. If you live in a drought or wildfire-prone area of the country, preparing in advance for this type of emergency situation can help ensure your safety. Families should create an emergency preparedness plan to help protect their family members and property. Here’s a checklist to help you prepare for the threat of wildfires caused by this year’s drought conditions.
Emergency Preparedness Checklist: Evacuation Plan
If you live in an area of the country experiencing drought conditions, stay alert to the threat of wildfires. Create, update, and review your family’s evacuation plan each year to prepare for a wildfire evacuation order. Understanding the safest routes out of your community and practicing your own evacuation plan will help ensure your family is prepared if an emergency happens.
If wildfires are burning in your area, listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information. If a wildfire evacuation order is given by authorities, having an emergency preparedness plan in place will help your family evacuate quickly, safely, and efficiently, without leaving anything essential behind. Your evacuation plan should include a list of key items to bring with you, including valuable papers and mementos.
Reducing Wildfire Property Damage
During a wildfire, hot embers and gas can breach a home’s exterior through combustible foundation walls, crawl spaces, and basement windows. Newly constructed buildings help to minimize this risk by meeting strict FEMA fire safety guidelines. This includes protecting the underside of homes with fire-resistant materials. In addition, using noncombustible materials for exterior buildings and structures like decks and enclosing these areas with fire-resistant skirting is needed.
Older buildings can be retrofitted with many of these new materials to meet strict fire guidelines. In addition, it’s important to remove combustible items stored in basements or crawl spaces. Additional protection comes from professionally encapsulating and insulating crawl spaces and protecting basements and foundations with fire-resistant materials. To stop wildfires before they reach the home, fire-resistant exterior planning is key. Surrounding homes with gravel, brick, or concrete pavers can help reduce the amount of combustible materials outside the home that feed wildfires.
Wildfire Prevention is Key
Over the past 10 years, more than 64,000 wildfires started and an average of 6.8 million acres burned each year. The impact on individual home and business owners, entire communities, and emergency personnel is enormous, and the threat is growing each year.
To reduce the effects of wildfires in your area, consider that 95% of all wildfires are started by humans. The most common cause of wildfires is a spark from power tools and equipment used in dry and windy conditions. From lawnmowers to weed trimmers, power tools should be used carefully during the dry summer months. Stopping lawn work before 10 a.m. and during windy conditions is a key deterrent.
To prepare your home for wildfire season, contact a foundation repair, crawl space repair, and basement waterproofing professional in your area. From foundation inspections to crawl space protections, our professional team can help your family prepare and reduce the damages caused by wildfires.