WARREN, N.J., March 31, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- As warmer weather approaches, the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies is encouraging homeowners to take steps now to help protect their homes from wildfires.
A prolonged drought in the West has some fire officials worried that 2014 could bring an increase in wildfires after a drop in such activity last year. In 2013, 47,579 reported wildfires burned 4.3 million acres, compared to 67,774 wildfires affecting 9.3 million acres in the prior year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
While California and neighboring states have experienced some of the largest wildfires, the destruction is not confined to the West. In 2013, large wildfires erupted in Colorado, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, among other states—and not just during the driest and hottest months.
"At one time, wildfires were more likely to start in the late summer and early fall—and you could warn homeowners about the approaching 'wildfire season,'" said Christie Alderman, new products and services manager for Chubb Personal Insurance. "Now, we see wildfires threatening homes throughout the year, and it means homeowners must be more vigilant."Alderman said that changing weather patterns may contribute to the unpredictable wildfire season, but it's also because more people are building homes in the woods to enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings. "The downside of living amid nature is that homes are exposed to nature's wrath, including wildfires," she said. Alderman said homeowners who live in high-risk wildfire areas should assess whether their properties are adequately protected from a wildfire. Some steps they can take include:
- Replacing cedar roof shingles with ceramic tiles or other non-flammable materials;
- Replacing flammable shrubs and bushes with fire-resistant plants;
- Covering the chimney and open vents with wire mesh to prevent embers from entering the house;
- Moving propane tanks away from the home;
- Removing debris from gutters and beneath decks; and
- Replacing landscaping mulch with stones or other fire-resistive materials.