With the High Park Fire buring in Larimer County, leaving one woman dead, destroying hundreds of buildings and forcing the evacuation of thousands in the past few days alone, insurance companies are reminding you to be aware of your family’s exposure to wildfire risks and to take steps now to protect your homes and property.

“Wildfires can be terrifying,” said Michael Gillerlane, a senior assistant vice president with Amica Insurance. “They can start suddenly and spread quickly, racing through fields and forest and destroying everything in their path in a matter of minutes.”

It’s important to realize that flames aren’t the only threat in a wildfire, Gillerlane said. The real danger often lies in hot embers that are blown by the wind. These can set fire to grass, trees, bushes and debris – or drift inside a house and cause it to burn from the inside.

That’s why Amica Insurance is sharing some wildfire safety tips from fire safety experts, so people can take steps now to help protect their homes and property.

  • Maintain a fire safety zone or “ring of safety” at least 30 feet around your home. Keep the grass mowed. Maintain shrubs and other landscaping. Trim tree branches so they’re at least six feet above the ground. Avoid the use of wood bark and rubber mulch that can catch fire.
  • Keep firewood, propane tanks, boats, RVs and other combustibles at least 30 feet from the home – outside of this safety zone. Avoid having playground equipment, arbors or trellises in this area as well.
  • Clean debris from gutters and downspouts and from the roof if possible.
  • Use flame-resistant materials on decks, patios and porches and enclose or screen the area to keep it free from debris.
  • Cover attic and crawlspace vents with 1/8-inch metal screens to help keep out burning embers.

”Most important of all is to have working smoke detectors or alarms on every floor of your home,” Gillerlane said. “Make sure they’re working. Test them monthly and replace the batteries regularly.”

People who live in areas at risk of wildfires also need to pay close attention to weather conditions that make it ripe for wildfires, and for reports of a wildfire that could place them at risk, he said.

“It’s also important to have an evacuation plan in case you need to leave,” Gillerlane said. “Heed the warnings of firefighters and other public safety officials in your community. If ordered to evacuate, do so immediately. Your family’s safety is the top priority.”