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Critical actions for Colorado small business owners to reduce wildfire risk

Fires raging across the Front Range are jeopardizing our communities. Mere weeks after the Pine Gulch Fire became the largest wildfire on record in Colorado, it was surpassed by the Cameron Peak Fire. The Calwood Fire, the Lefthand Fire, the East Troublesome Fire and too many others are also burning across the Front Range. As the fires spread, it leaves many wondering what to do.

For small businesses, many already reeling from months of uncertainty, the answer can be tough to decipher. Yet small businesses are the economic engine of our communities so helping ensure their viability is essential. There are mitigation actions, shown in test and real-world settings, to reduce the chance a wildfire will impact a commercial property that small business owners should take now.

Since 90 percent of buildings ignited by wildfire are ignited by embers, defending against the small burning particles is critical. Research from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) shows small businesses should start down the path of wildfire resistance with five actions essential to making a meaningful reduction in risk. Start by:

  1. Ensuring your roof is a Class A fire-rated roof: Check the roof cover information for the building or discuss it with a licensed roofing contractor.
  2. Clear debris from the roof and gutters: Make removing pine needles, leaves, and other debris from the roof and gutters part of routine maintenance.
  3. Create a buffer around the building with a 0-5 foot building ignition zone clear of combustible materials: Install hard surfaces like sidewalks, move vegetation farther away from the building, and do not store combustible items like wooden pallets in these first five feet around the building. The greater distance between the building and combustible storage, the better.
  4. If the building has a raised deck, balcony, or wooden walkway, keep the area beneath clear: Remove any items stored or vegetation growing beneath raised attachments.
  5. Ensure vents are covered with 1/8 inch or finer metal mesh screens: Block embers from entering the building by covering vents with this mesh and be sure to periodically clear the vent of any debris.

These initial steps and additional mitigation actions are outlined in a new guide called Wildfire Ready–Business. Designed for the busy small business owner, the guide lays out areas of vulnerability unique to commercial properties and the critical actions that must be addressed first to appreciably lower related wildfire risk. It then takes small business and commercial property owners and managers through additional improvements to tackle as time and budget permit.

From coffee shops and local restaurants to doctors’ offices and small strip malls, Wildfire Ready–Business applies to the small businesses that are the backbone of Colorado communities. Using IBHS research as its foundation, busy entrepreneurs can follow the steps to be better prepared for the next fire on the Front Range.

Chuck Miccolis is the Managing Director of Commercial Lines at Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).