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How to Best Prepare Your Home, Livestock, and Land From Wildfires

Are you prepared for the worst? No one wants to imagine that a wildfire would ever move to their property; however it is best to be as prepared as possible to minimize losses in case of a disaster.

The best precaution is to make sure that your belongings are covered with an insurance policy. Government disaster financial assistance will only help cover certain things. It is wise to also keep a detailed inventory of all your belongings, including but not limited to livestock, pesticides, equipment, fertilizers, fuels, medicines, and personal belongings.

There are many precautions that you can take prior to disaster to protect your belongings from wildfire damage. Make sure that you have a plan, especially if there is already a wildfire nearby or during a dry season. Make sure to also have an evacuation plan for your family members and any farm workers.

LIVESTOCK

Livestock owners should have an evacuation plan for your animals. If there is no safe area close by on your property, make transportation and feeding arrangements in case of emergency. Some things to consider that can help prevent loss of livestock:

  • Prepare a field or area that you can move your livestock to in case of a fire. This area should have minimal grass or stubble if possible, and located far away from any forested areas. Make sure that this area offers some kind of shade, and water.
  • A second option is to prepare a metal or concrete structure, and you could even consider putting in sprinklers to cool the structure.
  • If there is a structure (barn/sheds) that could easily catch fire, do your best to block it off entirely. Horses are known to try and return to barns when panicked.
  • Opening/closing gates will help direct livestock of where to run. Remember that your own safety is the priority!
  • Do you have a plan for what you will feed your livestock after a fire? You will need to be prepared for most of your grazing land to be destroyed, and potential loss of stored feed as well.
  • If all other methods fail, in a last resort situation you can cut down fences, releasing your animals to try and escape the fire to avoid loss entirely.
  • Having all livestock properly registered or branded will help you to identify and reclaim them after a fire.

Tip: Horses and cattle tend to fare relatively well during wildfires, however pigs, sheep and poultry are more vulnerable and may even suffer heat stress before the fire even arrives. Keep in mind that you may need to move these kinds of livestock first in an evacuation scenario.

CROPS & OTHER LAND

Firebreaks can help to prevent fire from moving to specific areas. These can be structures that are designed to help protect certain areas, or permanent firebreaks that are simply an area that provides no  bridge of “fuel” for the fire to continue. This could include bodies of water, stock tanks, pasture roads, or plowed land. Other precautions to consider:

  • Make sure your hay stacks, silos, and hay sheds are protected. After a fire, these may be your only sources of stock feed left.
    • Dry Hay before it is baled to prevent spontaneous combustion.
    • Create firebreaks around these areas, whether natural or structural. Consider using your livestock to reduce flammable grass right up next to your feed storage to help reduce fire risk.
    • Store hay away from roads/boundary fences
  • Burned firebreaks can also be created ahead of time, by burning out areas and preventing a fire from moving through. Be sure to practice safety and maintain control of the fire.
  • Consider the areas that are the most valuable, and make a plan for firebreaks to prevent damage.

If a Wildfire is Already Approaching

There may be a situation where you simply don’t have enough time for all of the above preparations. If a wildfire is already moving towards your property, there are still precautions you can take last minute to help prevent loss:

  • Evacuate family members, pets, and any valuable possessions to a safe location.
  • Apply sprinkler water for as long as possible to all land.
  • Monitor property and buildings for starts of small fires from floating embers.
  • If time allows, try and remove any piles of brush, low lying limbs, or other combustible materials away from buildings, crops, and fields.
  • Prepare your property as well as you can for any firefighters
    • Have keys, combinations, or property maps available, especially if you have a lot of land/buildings.
    • Mark water tanks, ponds, or other water sources that firefighters could use.
  • Move your livestock according to your plan. If you don’t have time, release livestock.
  • Load stock trailer with any especially valuable livestock (horses, breeding animals, etc.) and move to a safe location.
  • Move any expensive equipment to a safe location.

Planning for this kind of disaster may seem overwhelming. But the more prepared you are now, the less damage and loss you will have to deal with post-disaster. You can find more information, including a checklist here.