How to fireproof your home


A suburban home with a car outside

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In recent years weve been exposed to devastating fires in South Africa (like the Knysna and Imizamo Yethu fires in 2017) and abroad (the Australian and Brazilian wildfires earned widespread attention). These fires can often be devastating, destroying acres of vegetation, killing wildlife and endangering property and lives.

With increased awareness and preventive measures, the risks and damage of these fires could be limited. Mike Greeff, chief executive of Greeff Christies International Real Estate, offers advice to homeowners: Apart from insuring your home against fires, it is recommended to take precautions when doing routine maintenance; simple things like checking that the contractors and electricians you use are certified to prevent you from having to deal with potentially dangerous and costly consequences.

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Heres how you can fireproof the following areas of your home:

Garden

During the process of landscaping, ensure that you are designing your garden in such a way that would make it difficult for a fire to come up to and surround your home. There are a few ways that you can change up your yard and garden and become more fire-conscious:

Cut your grass short in the dry seasons

This is always a good move, as grass dries out and becomes very combustible in hot weather.

Clean out the gutters

Embers have the potential to ignite the leaves and this can result in a fire that attacks the most flammable part of your home first, in other words the roof.

Choose your trees wisely

Often the prettiest ones are the ones that cause the most damage. Conifer trees (pines or firs) contain sap, which is very flammable, while wild oaks are more fire-resistant.

The exterior

Although fires tend to run along the ground, they can sometimes catch onto trees and this in turn can damage your home. Take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your home by following the following steps:

Wet down the roof if theres risk of fire

Flying sparks and embers can set a roof alight. If the roof is wet, this will help to extinguish flying sparks before they can spread.

Wet down any wood on the outside of the home

In a fast-spreading fire, this can help keep flames from reaching wood. This includes doorways, window frames, decks and porches. Make sure you wet them down thoroughly.

Opt for tile or metal roofing when replacing a roof

Both materials resist fire, which will come in handy if you have trees on the property that could put your home at risk in the event of a fire. They can be expensive to start off with, but they last for many years.

Consider using brick or stone for your homes exterior

Wood looks great but is highly flammable in a fire. Rather choose to finish the bottom part of your home in brick or rock.

Use fire-retardant paints

One very simple and inexpensive fix is to add sand to the paint. You will have a rough texture, but it may save your home.

The interior

Hopefully youll never have to worry about a fire starting within your home, but just in case, here are some precautionary measures:

Check your smoke detectors

Should a spark hit your roof and catch fire, a smoke detector can save your life. Change the batteries at least twice a year and test them once a month. If you have quite a large home, make sure that the detectors all go off at the same time.

Have a fire extinguisher on hand

If you dont have one already, buy at least one fire extinguisher for your house. Ensure that it is in an area of the home that is quick and easy to access so you can just grab it and go.

Use furnishings made from natural materials

Modern furnishings are made from synthetic materials, which can contain petrochemicals. These furnishings, if set alight, burn rapidly and release toxic fumes. Rather choose furnishings that are made from natural materials.

In case of evacuation

In the event of a raging wildfire, emergency services will often notify residents regarding possible evacuation. Heres how you can be prepared:

Get your emergency kit ready

This bag should contain only the necessary essentials, such as nonperishable food, a flashlight and a first-aid kit.

Pack a bag for each family member

Pack a small bag with clothes, medication and anything else you may need. Make sure that the bags you pack are easy to carry, as you dont want to be slowed down.

Think about where you will go once youve been evacuated

This is imperative, especially if you have pets, as many shelters wont allow them to stay with you.

Get your car ready

Put important documents in your car identity documents, birth certificates, passport and licences in case you need to leave in a hurry. Be sure to keep the petrol tank full because petrol stations tend to fill up quickly during crisis situations.

Keep your phone charged

Having your cellphone on is crucial, as you will have loved ones wanting to know if youre safe, or you might need to call emergency services. As a precautionary measure, invest in a powerbank.

Having said all that, its important to keep in mind that even though these safety measures are in place, if a fire is dangerous enough, they might not be enough. Remember that your life and the lives of those around you are more valuable than your home or any other material possessions.

Image: iStock

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All you need to know about vehicle fires

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