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Wildfire season: 7 ways you can help save lives and property

Homeowners living near forests or any fire-prone area can take simple preventive steps to limit damage from wildfires – actions that are increasingly important as more homes are built in or near such locations. Communitywide programs can also significantly reduce wildfire threats. 

Greater population density in areas susceptible to wildfire means more lives and property put at risk. It also results in escalating costs to control wildfires: State and federal agencies now spend more than $3 billion per year on dealing with wildfires, twice as much as 10 years ago.

If you live within a mile of forests or any fire-prone landscape – public or private, rural or urban – here are seven ways you can help your community become “fire adapted,” courtesy of the US Forest Service report Wildfire, Wildlands, and People: Understanding and Preparing for Wildfire and other sources. 

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Smoke from the Powerhouse fire is visible from the Saugus neighborhood of Santa Clarita, Calif., May 30, 2013. The fire in the Angeles National Forest surged to 1,000 acres after burning for about four hours, the US Forest Service said.
Jonathan Pobre/AP
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1. Be aware and prepared

When you smell smoke, it’s much too late to unreel your garden hose to water down the shingles of your cedar shake roof. If your home is among what the US Forest Service report describes as the “one-third of all housing units (homes, apartment houses, condominiums, etc.) in the coterminous United States” located within a mile of a forest or other fire-prone landscape, understand that wildfires are a natural, recurring part of your landscape – and therefore you need to take adequate precautions.

The Forest Service warns that precautions are needed more than ever because housing densities continue to increase in fire-risk areas. According to the Forest Service report, “Increases in the number, size, intensity, and duration of wildfires across large areas of the United States are being attributed in part of climate change.” Whatever the cause, the Forest Service reports that more and more Americans now live in “landscapes that are drier, less resilient, and more likely to burn once ignited.”

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