5 Tips to Help Apartments Snuff out Potential Damage of Wildfires


Drought is easing across the Plains and Midwest after a tumultuous month of heavy rains, but farther west the landscape remains dry as a bone.

Lack of moisture in California and other western states has prompted public awareness campaigns to encourage property owners to conduct insurance policy reviews to determine if policies provide adequate coverage for damage associated with wildfires, as well as help prevent damage.

Wildfires have become increasingly widespread in recent years, and 2015 should be no exception. Last year, 3.6 million acres were destroyed by more than 63,000 wildfires. Included was the loss of more than 1,900 primary structures.

The National Interagency Fire Center predicts above normal wildland fire potential across the north central United States, part of the northern Rockies, across the West Coast, and in southwestern Arizona through August.

Property Casualty Insurers (PCI), an insurance advocacy group, encouraged residents living in fire-prone areas to participate in the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.

“Holding and participating in fire safety drills is the first step,” said Christopher Hackett, PCI director of personal lines policy. “Physical preparation, such as clearing defensible space around your home, and financial preparation, such as maintaining adequate homeowners insurance are critically important as well.”


Following are some tips from NFPA and PCI on how apartment community operators can prepare for the wildfire season:

  1. Create 100 feet of defensible space around the property

Defensible space can slow the spread of a fire and help keep firefighters safe. Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks, as this prevents embers from igniting structures. You should also remove dead vegetation and other items from under decks and porches, and within 10 feet of the structure.

  1. Maintain the landscape to prevent spread of fire

Wildfire can spread to tree tops. Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6-10 feet from the ground. Also, keep the lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity. Dry grass and shrubs, as well as debris and lawn cuttings, are fuel for wildfire.

  1. Inspect and repair structural components to the apartment

Inspect shingles or roof tiles and replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration. Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering structures. Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry.

  1. Practice safety drills for staff and residents

Create a plan and hold drills to safely evacuate staff and residents. Make sure your community knows what actions to take if a fire breaks out, and don’t forget to include plans for pets.

  1. Check smoke alarms and maintain fire extinguishers

It’s just as important at any time of the year to make sure fire and smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are in working order. Make it a priority to install new batteries in alarms and inspect fire extinguishers around the property.

In addition, Ed Wolff, LeasingDesk Insurance President, says property owners should review and understand their insurance policies, what they cover and their limits.

“With the cost of building materials and labor today, nobody should be inadequately covered in the event of catastrophic damage as a result of a wildfire or other disaster,” he said. “In addition, take steps to help minimize any potential for destruction at your apartment community. Every little bit helps.”

(Image Source: Shutterstock)


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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