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Community Wildfire Preparedness Day is Saturday, May 7, 2022

NASHVILLE The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (“TDCI”) and the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office join 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 on Saturday, May 7, 2022

Every year during the spring and fall seasons, wildfires occur across Tennessee. In 2021, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry responded to 660 wildfires that burned 7,170 acres on private and state-owned land. So far, in 2022, the Division has responded to 683 wildfires scarring over 10,500 acres. This is nearing the 10-year average of 750 fires burning 16,800 acres, though it’s only May. 

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

“After seeing the damages from the Sevier County wildfires in March, I know firsthand about the threat that wildfires pose to Tennesseans,” said TDCI Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Carter Lawrence. “I extend my condolences to all Tennesseans affected by this tragedy, and I encourage all home and property owners to take time during Wildfire Community Preparedness Day to evaluate their risks of wildfires and take steps to help prevent a fire that could have devastating consequences.”

TDCI has recently shared an important insurance and consumer recovery bulletin for those affected by the Sevier County wildfires.  

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry is a proponent of wildfire hazard reduction programs. Since 2022, the Division has partnered with NFPA and its federal partners to promote the Firewise USA Communities. The Division actively promotes Fire Adapted Communities — in which a multitude of programs and concepts work hand in hand to increase community wildfire safety. 

“A community is better prepared for wildland fire when they understand their risk and take action to minimize that risk,” State Forester David Arnold said. “We must work together to ensure safety for residents, homes, businesses, parks, utilities, and other community assets. Maintaining 30 feet of defensible space that is clear of debris around your home is a great first step in protecting homes from small creeping ground fires or windblown burning embers.”

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 is replacing wood chips with gravel or reimagining a home’s entire landscape design, the steps taken on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day can have a long-lasting impact.  

Additionally, consumers should remember the following wildfire preparation tips: 

  • Rake and remove pine needles and dry leaves within a minimum of three to five feet of a home’s foundation. If you have the time, continue raking up to a 30-foot distance around the home. Dispose of collected debris in appropriate trash receptacles.  
  • Clean pine needles from your roof and gutters and pay attention to maintaining the home ignition zone. 
  • Using a measuring tape, see how close wood piles are located to your home. If they are closer than 30 feet, relocate them to at least 30 feet away from structures. 
  • Sweep porches and decks, clearing them of leaves and pine needles. Rake 
  • under decks, porches, sheds, and play structures. 
  • Mow grasses to a height of 4 inches or less. 
  • Remove items stored under decks and porches and relocate them to a storage shed, garage, or basement. Gasoline cans and portable propane tanks should never be stored indoors and should be located away from the home. 

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 254,000 smoke alarms have been distributed to Tennessee fire departments and partner organizations across Tennessee. So far, 328 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. 

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