Early on a Tuesday morning in the middle of May, a family of four in Novi, Michigan, watched their home burn.
Thunderstorms rolled through the area shortly after midnight, and a neighbor down the street said she heard a loud BOOM, but she couldn’t quite identify it at the time.
It turns out lightning had struck the two-story home and started a fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt thanks to another neighbor, who alerted the family to the fire in time for them to get out.
Once everyone was safely outside, they could do nothing but watch as flames engulfed the roof. The fire caused major damage to the family’s home, and according to EMS and fire operations director Jeff Johnson, “They won’t be able to live there for quite a while.”
It’s terrifying to think about, but a freak accident like this could happen to anyone. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to reduce the potential for a fire to destroy your home:
- Protect your roof — The roof is one of the areas in your home most vulnerable to embers that can start a fire. One of the simplest things you can do to safeguard your roof is make sure your gutters are clear of any debris that could fuel a fire. Also, consider this: Shingle roofs are incredibly flammable. Ideally, it’s better to have a metal or tile roof.
- Replace the vents on your home — Most homes have a system of vents that connects to the outside. The problem is these vents allow embers to enter your home and get into your attic and other places that can easily catch fire. But not all vents are created equal. Metal mesh vents, for example, will not burn like plastic ones will. You can also install 1/8” vents that will stop even more debris from passing though.
- Keep the exterior of your home clutter-free — Some people keep huge firewood piles stacked against their home or garage. One small spark and that pile of wood could go up in flames and feed the fire to your house. I recommend storing like items away from your home against an exterior fence or some other area of your yard. Also, make sure to keep your yard tidy, with neatly trimmed bushes and trees. Lightning can also strike overhanging trees, causing them to fall on your home.
- Water hoses — I would never advise you to fight a large house fire with a garden hose. However, if a small fire starts in your backyard or your fire pit gets out of control, you should have a hose that can reach every part of your yard. In fact, I recommend having multiple garden hoses that can reach all areas around the exterior of your home. If you have a pool or hot tub, consider buying a water pump in case you need to use the water to fight a small fire before it grows.
- Install security film — The intense heat from a fire can cause your windows to shatter. The increased oxygen feeds the flames, and if the fire starts outside your home, a broken window gives it the opportunity to move inside. Also, the broken glass could injure people as they try to escape. This is why I suggest installing security film on your windows. While it won’t totally prevent them from breaking, it will keep the window intact when it breaks so it doesn’t completely shatter. As an added bonus, security film is a great way to prevent criminals from breaking in through a window.
Some parts of the country have been on the lookout for wildfires since March, while in others, wildfire season is just beginning. Whether it’s a wildfire or lightning strike, these safety tips can help you keep everything you’ve worked so hard for from going up in smoke.