Safety Precautions for Your Home

Fire Safety Precautions

The number of homes being built in or near forested areas is increasing rapidly in Virginia. When a fire occurs around one of these homes, it often extends into the forestland, threatening other homes and forest resources. Forest fires often threaten and burn homes and structures built in wooded areas if the homeowner has not taken proper fire safety precaution. Fire safety precautions include:

  • Have a cleared area at least 30-feet wide around all structures. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum 75-foot clearance.
  • Have properly designed driveways that will accommodate fire fighting equipment.
  • The house address should be clearly displayed.
  • Keep leaves and debris cleared from under decks and porches so that they will not be set on fire by blowing sparks and embers.
  • Roofs should be of fire-resistant materials. Remove pine needles and leaves from the roof and gutters so that they will not be set on fire by blowing sparks and embers.
  • Have outside water spigots and at least 100 feet of garden type hose readily accessible for fire control until the fire department arrives.
  • Should the situation become life-threatening or an evacuation order be given by fire officials, leave immediately and go to the designated evacuation shelter. Do not return until an all-clear message has been given by fire officials.
  • Dispose of ashes and charcoal briquettes in a metal container and allow them to stay in the container for at least 48 hours. Do not dump hot ashes on the ground.

Protect Your Woodland Home

  • Use only fire resistant materials on the exterior of your home whether roof, siding, decking or trim.
  • Protect interiors from sparks and embers by boxing in eaves, screening vents, and underpinning or screening beneath porches, decks, and the house itself. Do not use fiberglass screening.
  • Chimneys should extend above the roof line and be topped with a 1/2 inch mesh spark arrester.
  • Keep roofs free of debris. Leaves, pine straw, moss and twigs that collecton the roof and in gutters invite disaster.
  • Safely dispose of stove, fireplace, and grill ashes. First place them in a metal bucket, soak with water, and then bury them in mineral soil.
  • Never store flammable material like firewood or lumber under or near your home. Keep it at least 100 feet away from the house, but never uphill because burning material will roll.
  • Faucets should be located on each side of your home and near any outbuilding. Install them, too, in areas of the yard where fire hazards exist, or where wildfire could enter your yard. Have a coiled hose attached to faucets on opposite sides of your home.
  • Hand tools such as rakes, shovels, and axes should be readily available along with a ladder that will reach your roof.


  • Narrow, steep, or winding roads and driveways can obstruct the movement of fire fighting equipment.
  • Make sure firefighters can identify the entrance to your home by marking the drive with a sturdy, easy to read sign that gives your name and address. For your personal safety, plan an alternate escape route in case your primary access is blocked by fire or smoke.


Protecting your home from wildfire starts with the trees around it. Pay particular attention to the trees within 100 feet of your house:

  • The wider the spacing between trees, the better;
  • Hardwood trees tend to be less flammable than conifers;
  • Rid trees of moss, abandoned nests, dead limbs and other flammable material;
  • Remove limbs within 15-20 feet of the ground;
  • Remove limbs that extend over your roof, or those directly above or within 15 feet laterally of a chimney.

Your yard should serve as a firebreak:

  • If you have a grass lawn that is dormant in winter, mow it closely after all growth has stopped and bag the cuttings.
  • Rake all leaves or needles that are within 30 feet of a structure.
  • Use bedding mulch or straw sparingly close to buildings.
  • Certain popular shrubs are highly flammable. Select the least flammable shrubs that will achieve the desired effect in your landscaping.

Last modified: Tuesday, 25-Nov-2014 12:16:57 EST