The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office joined the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry to raise awareness among home and property owners regarding the importance of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day last Saturday.

The threat of wildfires is becoming increasingly prevalent and dangerous, posing greater risks to people and property as a growing number of people are living where wildfires are a real risk. Every year during the spring and fall seasons, wildfires occur across Tennessee. In Tennessee in 2019, there were 529 wildfires that burned over 5,300 acres.

On Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, fire departments, homeowners and communities can take action together to protect personal property from the risk of wildfires. Created by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day campaign encourages people and organizations everywhere to come together on a single day to take action to raise awareness and reduce the risks of wildfire.

“From Tennessee’s rural farming communities to our more urban areas, the threat of wildfires pose a risk to thousands of Tennesseans,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Assistant Commissioner for Fire Prevention Gary Farley. “I encourage all home and property owners to take time today to evaluate their risks of wildfires and take steps to help prevent a fire that could lead to tragic consequences.”

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry is a proponent of wildfire hazard reduction programs. The Division has partnered with NFPA and its federal partners to promote the Firewise Communities program since 2002. The Division actively promotes Fire Adapted Communities — in which a multitude of programs and concepts work hand in hand to increase community wildfire safety.

Research shows there are proven methods for preparing properties for withstanding the devastating impacts of a wildfire. During Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, consumers can take steps to protect their homes and families by eliminating vulnerabilities, particularly in the immediate 5-foot zone around a residence. Whether it’s replacing wood chips with gravel or reimagining a home’s entire landscape design, the steps taken on Saturday can have a long-lasting impact. Additionally, consumers should remember the following wildfire preparation tips:

• Know two ways out. Plan two ways out of your neighborhood and designate a meeting place before a wildfire threatens your area.

• Protect your home from embers. Clear needles, leaves and other debris from roofs, gutters, porches and decks.

• Move firewood piles. Firewood piles can ignite from wildfire embers and then ignite your home. Keep piles of firewood at least 30 feet away from buildings.

• Maintain landscaping. Keep lawns mowed and hydrated. Dry grass and shrubs are easily ignited by wildfires.

• Screen vents to reduce ignitions. Install metal mesh screening in attics and crawlspace vents to reduce potential wildfire ignitions.

• Be ready. When wildfire threatens, remove all flammable outdoor items from decks and porches (cushions, door mats and portable propane tanks).

To help improve consumer fire safety at home, the State Fire Marshal’s Office began the “Get Alarmed, Tennessee!” program in 2012. Since its inception, over 244,000 free smoke alarms have been distributed to Tennessee fire departments and partner organizations across Tennessee. So far, at least 314 residents have been alerted to fires in their homes and escaped without serious injury thanks to smoke alarms installed through the program. Consumers should contact their local fire department and ask if the department participates in the “Get Alarmed” program.