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smoky-bearGrowing up, I remember hearing Smoky the Bear saying “Only you can prevent forest fires”.  It was quaint, but the seriousness of it was lost on a 9 year old boy who was more interested in playing with matches.  However, the current dry spell here in the mountains of western North Carolina has shown the seriousness of the message.

As I write this post, there are several wildfires burning in these mountains.  A few of them are more than 3,000 acres in size, but so far no homes involved.  That’s a lot of mountain real estate, although its just a very small fraction of the millions that are out there.  Regardless, we all must take fire safety seriously.  When you smell the smoke from miles away, it hits home.

In a typical year here in these mountains, there may be a few small, well contained fires.  Most often, they never even make the evening news.  We typically have plenty of rain throughout the year that keeps the risk pretty low.  But once in a few years, we have a drought and someone foolishly burning a pile of leaves doesn’t pay attention to the wind, and before he’s realized it, the little pile of burning leaves is racing into the woods.

When looking at a prepper property or bugout property, one of the key characteristics is to be in a remote location that typically features a lot of woodlands.  With that comes risk of fire.  So what is one to do?  Start by clearing a sufficient area around your house of combustible material, especially downhill from the house.  Build the roof out of material that is highly fire resistant.  There are shingles specifically made that are fireproof so that burning embers don’t set them ablaze.  Another roofing material is metal which has become very popular in recent years due to its aesthetic appeal, but it also has fire preventative aspects.  Exterior siding can also be made out of non-combustible materials such as stone veneer, metal and concrete block finished with stucco.  If you choose to use wood, you can purchase fire retardant or high heat resistant paints.  We used this type of paint on the wall behind our wood stove.

A good friend and fellow land broker who is also a volunteer fire fighter says when building the house, don’t build it at the top of a draw or “holler”, as we call them here in the mountains, even if it has the best view.  That is, small coves and hollows create natural chimney’s wherein fire can quickly spread uphill.  Keep underbrush cut back, especially mountain laurel which acts as an accelerant.

While the thought of a wildfire is disconcerting, don’t let it prevent you from living your dream or prepping for your family.  There are ways to minimize the risk, and one of those is to have the professionals at Retreat Realty help you in your search for that per perfect survival property in the western North Carolina mountains.  And remember, never play with matches!