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How to lessen fire damage

Residents can take steps to protect their homes from wildfires.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | January 20, 2009

Residents can take steps to protect their homes from wildfires, said Australian emergency management officials in the wake of one of Australia's worst fire disasters in history. Wildfires burned than more 400 homes in the Australian suburbs this week.

Australian response organizations offered the following advice to people potentially in the path of fires.

And, as U.S. officials debate the safety of an aging aerial firefighting fleet while gearing up for the next fire season, U.S. residents might take note of these tips.

The most important step, safety officials across the board note, is to evacuate when you are told to do so.

Before the threat of fire:

Make evacuation plans for your children and pets.

Keep a radio with fresh batteries so you can hear evacuation updates.

Keep dry brush away from your house year-round.

If fire is approaching your house, and you have time before you evacuate:

Close all doors and windows.

Fill the bathtub with water.

Soak towels and place them under doors and in crevices.

Take down curtains.

Push furniture away from windows.

Outdoors, you can take the following protective measures:

Connect hoses that will reach all four corners of your house.

Store flammable liquids away from the house.

Enclose open eaves as well as any space under your house.

Block gutters with rags and fill them with water.

Use water to dampen all sides of the house and yard facing the fire.

For personal safety, if fire is approaching your home:

Vacate to a safe area.

Protect your skin with natural fiber clothing.

After the fire has passed:

Keep checking your house and yard for burning embers and small fires.

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