If you have lived in Alabama for any length of time, you know that drought and wildfires are nothing rare. 2016 was a particularly bad year of drought which created conditions perfect for accidental wildfires, even in an area like Hoover. There were near misses of fires in Hoover including the fire in the median of Interstate 459 when a flat tire caused a spark that set the dry grass ablaze.

“Just an innocent accident started that one, and just anything that generates any heat or any type of flame or spark could just easily start a fire,” Rusty Lowe with Hoover Fire and Rescue told ABC 33/40 last October.

These fires and the many other small brush fires that were extinguished before they could become a major incident should be a good reason for homeowners to look into the ways they can help protect their homes from brush fires and wildfires. The good news is that last year, the incidence of wildfires was lower than the year before. The bad news? From January through April of 2017, there were nearly 3,000 more fires than in the same time period in 2016, according to the Insurance Information Institute. West of Hoover in Jefferson County, AL.com reports that there was already a brush fire that burned 12 acres of land this year and a total of 26 fires already this year according to the Alabama Forestry Commission.

What is wildfire?

Think back to that firefighter that visited your elementary school class. During his or her discussion, the talk most likely centered around the fire triangle – the three elements necessary for a fire to “live.” These include oxygen, fuel (flammable materials such as dry grassland, brush, trees, and homes) and a source of heat (campfire, the sun, lightning, and cigarettes, for example). When all three elements converge, in a susceptible area, a wildfire breaks out. The more fuel there is, the more intense the flames will be and the hotter and faster the fire moves.  "Just one little spark," said Hoover Fire and Rescue's Lowe told ABC 33/40. "Just within a few seconds went from the smoldering phase to actively burning."

Protect your family and your home from wildfire

We have more information about wildfires and how to protect ourselves. You can start by completing the Alabama Forestry Commission's Fire Risk Assessment checklist and learn where you can make your home safer.

Prepare your home for wildfire by:

  • Ridding your landscape of combustible materials to within 5-feet of it. Use brick, gravel or concrete instead. Remove tree branches that overhang the deck and house. Ensure there is no dry or dead vegetation. Don't forget the area under your deck.
  • Maintain your roof by consistently removing debris. Hot embers love the stuff.
  • Do the same with gutters – keep them clear of debris during fire season.
  • Replace wood fences with noncombustible materials.
  • Install 1/8-inch metal mesh over roof vents.
  • Close the windows when fire threatens.
  • Check with your local fire department about burning laws and ordinances within your city and be sure to fill out the proper permit applications.
  • Watch the local news to make sure you are aware of drought and fire risk conditions in your area.

For a more detailed list of ways to protect your home, visit The Alabama Forestry Commission website. The months of June through September of 2017 have been designated wildfire season, according to the U.S. government’s National Interagency Fire Center. Last year, nearly 4,000 wildfires burned over 50,000 acres across Alabama. Take steps now to protect your family and your home.

"The biggest thing we can do to help stop fires is get [the] word out to the public like we are doing right now and encourage people to use common sense," said Hoover FD's Rusty Lowe told ABC 33/40 last year.


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