Wildfire season is starting earlier and with greater ferocity in the West this year.
As of May 26, 628,715 acres had burned in 10 states since Jan. 1, an increase of nearly 70 percent over the same period in 2020, says the National Interagency Fire Center.
Anyone who lives in a drought-prone area is vulnerable, and even city-dwellers may need to protect themselves from smoke. Here are a few steps to take to defend your property and health:
• Landscape with fire in mind. For instance, use stone walls and gravel as fire breaks. Consider fire-resistant shrubs such as sumac and cotoneaster and plants like coreopsis and French lavender, says the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).
• Rethink building materials. Consider noncombustible siding materials, such as fiber cement, brick veneer and stucco, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety recommends. When reroofing, make sure the shingles are labeled Class A — the highest fire-resistance rating — by UL.
Fire often spreads from home to home via fences and decks, the IBHS says. So if you have a wood or vinyl fence, replace the section next to your house — at least 5 feet — with metal. For decks, opt for a metal-joist substructure.
• Clear away combustibles. Move flammable materials at least 5 feet from your home, decks, and overhangs. Move wood piles at least 30 feet…