Can You Protect Your Ranch and Farm Land from Wildfires?



By Caroline Kirby

Heatwaves, human error, and drought have all contributed to an unfortunate increase in wildfire across the U.S., but particularly on the west coast of the country. The severity and frequency of wildfire season is also increasing, with experts predicting the 2021 wildfire season to be particularly harsh.

While it may feel like there’s not much you can do to prevent and protect your land from wildfire; there are plenty of safety measures worth implementing on your land. If you own a ranch, farmland, or even a vacant property in a wildfire-prone area, here are some important steps to take.

How to Protect Your Land from Wildfire

Analytics company Verisk determined that states California, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Oklahoma, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Utah were had the highest potential risk for wildfire. If you have land in these areas or are looking at purchasing land around one of these states, then it’s worth spending some time getting familiar with potential risks and forming a safety plan.

Understanding Risks

Unfortunately, the majority of wildland fires in the U.S. are totally preventable as they are caused by people. Many human-caused fires come from unattended campfires, burning debris, downed power lines, and negligently discarded cigarettes, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.

The first step to protecting your property from wildfire is to get educated and be aware of potential risks. You may think that you’re extra safe and none of your actions could lead to a fire, but many rural properties like ranches or farms utilize burn barrels. If you use a burn barrel on your property, avoid burning material from automobiles, used oil, preserved wood, animal manure or pathological waste, and any material that may contain rubber or plastic.

Always cover your barrel with a metal screen, get a permit, and never burn in the heat of the day or when winds are greater than 8 mph.

Even if you don’t burn on your property, you should look at all aspects of your land as a potential wick. Some items to keep an eye on include:

• hay
• livestock feed
• fuel for regular business operations

The wind-driven embers of a wildfire are the greatest threat to properties, not flames, as the ember increases the chance for a quick spread once they land on combustible material.

Some of the lesser-known risks of causing wildfires on rural land include off-highway vehicles, logging practices, more frequent lightning strikes, welding, and fuel storage.

Steps to Take Before Fire

Wildfire on a ranch or farm can be extremely dangerous and expensive. Here’s a simple to-do list to ensure you are prepared in the case of an emergency:

• Keep a 30-foot barrier clear of burnable materials around fields and structures.
• Create a contingency plan for feeding and relocating livestock if time permits
• Perform random safety checks on your property and conduct practice drills with family and employees
• Let your local fire department know of access roads, water sources, and fence lines – also consider placing signage directing visitors to water sources.
• Wildfires are unpredictable and can make usual routes unsafe, so be sure to plan various exit routes to get off your property.
• Determine what assets are your priorities should you have to choose which to protect, whether it’s livestock, machinery, feed, or buildings on your property.

Your land is a huge investment – do your due diligence to ensure your property is protected in the case of a wildfire. If you’re looking for more helpful landowner info, check out LandHub’s blog library for more resources!

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