December 1st marks the beginning of Brush Fire Season in Florida. Between staff cuts at the Fire Department due to the economy, and Florida being much dryer than usual already, we could be in for some seriously bad brush fires. There are things we can do to mitigate the risks, however. Here are five ways you can prevent brush fires and protect your home from fires if they do occur.
The first way you can protect your home against brush fires is to clear all the brush as far away from your home as you can. Make sure there is no dry undergrowth, excessive bushes, weeds, tall grass or piles of flammable materials such as wood or tires within at least 30 feet of your home. If you have elderly or just extremely busy neighbors, it would benefit you as well as them if you offered to help clear debris and high grass from their yard as well.
The second thing you can do to prevent fires is to be very, very careful with matches, lighters, cigarettes, even magnifying glasses. Don’t even think about having a campfire, or burning any brush. Be extremely careful when barbecuing on an outdoor grill; keep a source of water handy to douse any flames that might get away from you.
A third very important way to protect against brush fires is to teach your children about the dangers of playing with anything flammable. Most children have a fascination with making fires. They will be tempted to play with matches, or even magnifying glasses to see if they can make “a small flame.” Some of these “small flames” have burned hundreds of acres and many homes. Children need to know the very real consequences, not only to themselves but also to others, of playing with fire.
Unfortunately, a lot of children who are told of the dangers of fire and warned of the trouble they’ll be in if they are caught playing with matches, only try to hide what they are doing. This is even more dangerous, since many children hide in the woods where the dry undergrowth, and therefore the fire danger, is highest. So a fourth thing that might be a good idea is to supervise a little experimentation before dry season arrives. Go to a safe place, maybe a concrete patio or something, and teach your child to light a match, a lighter and burn paper or wood with a magnifying glass. This may sound counter intuitive, but sometimes a child who has never done these things tries to experiment on their own, and because they are inexperienced and afraid of the flame, they will drop the lit match, becoming even more dangerous than if they had steady fingers. Also, if they know you will help them, they don’t have to sneak off to satisfy their curiosity about fire.
The fifth thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from brush fires is to pay attention. Monitor news reports, keep your cell phone charged, and watch for smoke or flames in your area. If you see something, call 911 right away. Fires spread very quickly. If you have time, you can spray your yard and house with your water hose. But if you are recommended to evacuate by the fire fighters, take your family and go. You can always rebuild, if it comes to that. You cannot replace yourself or your family. This also frees the fire department to worry about fighting the fire instead of about your safety. Firemen work very hard to save residences, and most of the time, they are successful. Make sure your insurance is up to date and the papers are in a place where you can grab them on the way out the door.
Perhaps we will have a wetter winter in Florida than normal. But if the fire season in Florida is as bad as predicted, these five things might just help you protect your Florida home from brush fires.