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Wildfires are a natural occurrence in Canada, thanks to our many forested and grassland regions. Every year, about 8,000 wildfires burn across 2.5 million hectares of land in Canada. Forty-five per cent are caused by lighting and 55 per cent are caused by humans.

Typically, wildfires occur from early spring through to fall and occur just about everywhere in Canada. Businesses are at highest risk if they have wildland within 30 metres of their building, according to the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR).

To make matters worse, the total area burned by wildfires has more than doubled over the past 50 years, and the number and average severity of large fires has increased, according to the IIC’s Climate Risk report.

That’s why it’s increasingly important for business owners to educate themselves on the risks. Should a wildfire occur, there are several ways to protect your property and operations. Do you have fire protection equipment, such as fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, installed on your property? Are your employees properly trained on handling and operating equipment and fuel that may cause fires, property damage, or serious injury? Some other preventative measures include:

Creating a fuel reduction area

This safety zone can help to protect your property from fire by maintaining a separation between buildings, vehicles, fuel tanks, storage areas, and high-grass or wooded areas. If trees on your property are primarily deciduous, such as oak or maple, this safety zone should be at least nine metres. If the trees are primarily coniferous, such as pine or fir, the safety zone should be at least 30 metres.

Regularly clearing debris

Clear dry or dead brush, trees, grass, and other debris within 15 metres of all buildings, or within 60 metres of buildings on slopes. Trees should be trimmed so branches are a minimum of two metres from the ground.

Providing a safe smoking area

Some wildfires are caused by an easily preventable accident, such as a cigarette butt that wasn’t properly extinguished. Establish a safe outdoor smoking area and provide appropriate containers for discarding smoking materials.

Safe storage of flammable material

Combustible and flammable materials located outdoors should be stored in approved containers at an acceptable distance from buildings, fences, and vehicles. If your building is on a slope, these should be stored lateral to the building, not uphill or downhill.

Providing adequate property access

Properties should have well maintained, adequately sized, and properly graded driveways and access roads. Roads and parking areas should be designed to accommodate fire department vehicles, with a turning radius of 14 metres.

Upgrading your infrastructure

Roof coverings should be made of fire-resistant materials, and roof vents should be covered with fire- and corrosion-resistant screens. Install spark arrestors on chimneys to prevent sparks and embers from escaping. Exterior openings, including windows and doors, should have at least a 20-minute fire resistance rating. Overhangs, eaves, and balconies should also have at least a one-hour fire resistance rating.

Staying up to date

Having the right information at the right time can make the difference in helping you react before it’s too late. Monitor your local news, stay up to date on weather developments and check weather alerts frequently. Follow local weather stations on social media to get the latest updates in real time.

Natural Resources Canada offers a Canadian Wildland Fire Information System with daily fire weather and fire behaviour maps, as well as hot spot maps, throughout the duration of the forest fire season. Federal, provincial, and territorial governments also provide up-to-date reports on the fire situation across Canada via the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

Protect your business with reliable coverage

Preparing for a wildfire should also be part of your disaster recovery and business continuity plan, which should also include appropriate insurance coverage. Even if you take all the right steps, things can still go wrong. The right insurance can help your small business get back up and running. Visit our business insurance page to learn more!

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.