MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - June 21, 2010) -  (Family Features) Wildfires pose a real threat to residents across the country, and there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of loss and to protect those you love.

Wildfires are a natural part of the environment. They occur everywhere that patterns of dry and windy weather exist. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, over 77,000 fires burned nearly 6 million acres across the entire U.S. in 2009.

To help educate the public, the National Fire Protection Association's Firewise Program helps communities lower the risk of damage before wildfire starts.

"By learning about how wildfires spread and taking simple steps to reduce damage, we can adapt to the inevitability of wildfire danger," said Michele Steinberg, Firewise Program Manager in Quincy, Mass. "Wildfires do not have to burn everything in their paths. You can prepare your home simply and effectively."

Make Your Home Firewise
To reduce the wildfire threat around your home, start close to your home and work your way out.

  • Remove leaves and debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks to prevent an ember from igniting your home.
  • Water and maintain your lawn regularly. Consider xeriscaping if you live in an area with water restrictions.
  • Maintain a "fuel-free" area within 3-5 feet of your home. Nothing that can catch fire should touch the sides of your house, deck or porch.
  • Reduce vegetation surrounding a home (30 to 100 feet away, depending on the area's risk of wildfire).
  • Prune large trees so that the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet high. This will help prevent a wildfire from spreading up to the tree tops.
  • Dispose of cuttings and debris promptly.
  • When planting, choose slow-growing, carefully placed shrubs and trees so the area can be more easily maintained.
  • Landscape with less-flammable plants. Contact your state forestry agency or county extension office for plant information.

When building or retrofitting, choose fire-resistant or non-combustible construction materials for homes, decks, porches and fences.

  • The most protective roofing materials will be rated "Class-A," including asphalt shingles and metal, cement and concrete products.
  • Roof construction, including the sub-roof, should also be fire-resistant.
  • Wall materials most resistant to heat and flames include brick, cement, plaster, stucco and concrete masonry.
  • Use fire-resistant materials such as stucco or masonry for exterior walls. These products are better than vinyl, which can soften and melt.
  • Double-paned or tempered glass windows also make a home more resistant to heat and flames.

To learn more about how you can take action to reduce wildfire damage to your home, download a free Firewise User Guide at www.firewise.org. You can also get detailed landscape techniques, homeowner checklists, and information on building construction choices.