Portland summers present some unique challenges for landlords in our area, particularly with the increasing risk of wildfires and dry weather. While the stereotype of the Pacific Northwest may focus on our rainy winters, the dry, hot summers we experience in between can create a lot of issues when it comes to keeping homes in good condition. In addition to the challenges of wet winters and hot summers, the risk of fire damage makes it even more important to follow a comprehensive summer maintenance checklist. Here’s our guide to help you prepare your rental property for the hot, dry months ahead.

Understand the Dangers of Wildfire

Wildfires pose a significant threat to properties, especially during the dry summer months. And while many people associate wildfires with rural or isolated areas, they can also affect cities — especially green ones like Portland. Our city has experienced an increase in wildfire activity in recent years, making it more important than ever to take preventive measures. Wildfires can cause extensive damage to properties, disrupt lives, and lead to significant financial losses. As a landlord, you have a responsibility to mitigate these risks and ensure your property is as fire-resistant as possible.

Fire Safety Checklist for Summer 

In the summer, wildfires and house fires can quickly burn out of control. By taking these steps to ensure your property is resistant to catching fire from the inside or out, you can ensure your tenants stay safe, and your property investment remains sound.

1. Inspect and Clean the Roof and Gutters

Start by inspecting and cleaning your property’s roof and gutters, which can quickly catch fire as a result of an ember. Remove pine needles, leaves, branches, or other debris that could easily ignite, also focusing on gutters and downspouts where flammable materials can build up. While performing roof cleaning, ensure that your roof is in good condition and replace any damaged shingles. If the time is coming to replace your roof, you might consider some fire-resistant roofing materials to increase your property’s safety. 

2. Trim Vegetation to Create a Defensible Space

One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of wildfire damage is to create defensible space around your rental property by cutting back trees, shrubs, and other vegetation. It’s always wise to keep tree branches at least 10 feet away from your roof and any power lines and remove dead plants, grass, and weeds regularly. Maintaining a buffer zone around your property can slow the spread of wildfires and provide a safe area for firefighters to operate. Also, store firewood, propane tanks, and other combustible items at least 30 feet away from the building and ensure that barbecue grills and fire pits are used safely and are properly extinguished after use.

3. Maintain Fire-Safe Landscaping

In addition to creating defensible space, maintaining your landscaping can significantly reduce fire risk. Water your lawn and plants regularly, but be mindful of water usage restrictions. Consider using fire-resistant plants and materials in your landscaping design — these can often involve native plants, some of which have natural fire resistance. Remove any combustible materials, such as wooden furniture or mulch, from close proximity to the building.

4. Check Fire Extinguishers and Smoke Detectors

Portland regulations lay out the requirements for fire extinguishers and smoke detectors in rentals, including Section 901.6. Be sure that your rental complies with local fire code at all times, but especially before the dry season begins. Test smoke detectors in each unit and replace batteries as needed, and consider installing additional smoke detectors in areas prone to fire hazards, such as kitchens and laundry rooms. These devices are critical for early detection and can save lives and property.

5. Service Your HVAC Systems

With summer temperatures rising, it’s essential to service your HVAC systems to keep them running safely and efficiently. Clean or replace air filters to reduce the risk of overheating, which can cause a fire. You should also have a professional check for any potential issues and ensure that outdoor units are free of debris and properly ventilated.

6. Inspect and Maintain Your Electrical System

While electrical work can be intimidating, there are many things a DIY landlord can take on to check electrical systems and prevent potential fire hazards. Start by inspecting all wiring for signs of damage or wear and tear, and replace or repair any issues you find. Ensure that all electrical outlets, switches, and appliances are functioning correctly. Overloaded circuits and faulty wiring are common causes of fires, so regular inspections are crucial.

7. Have an Emergency Plan

A wildfire or other crisis can strike with little warning, so having an emergency plan in place is critical when it comes to protecting lives and property. When you develop and communicate an emergency plan with your tenants, provide clear instructions on what to do in case of a wildfire or other emergencies. Ensure that all tenants know the location of fire extinguishers, emergency exits, and assembly points. Regularly review and update your emergency plan to address any new risks or changes in the property layout. Your tenants will appreciate all you do to keep them safe.

8. Educate Tenants on Fire Risks and Responsibilities

In addition to providing an emergency plan, you can provide your tenants with the knowledge they need to keep the property safe while they live there. Provide them with information on how to reduce fire risks, such as not leaving cooking unattended, properly disposing of cigarette butts, and avoiding the use of candles. You should also encourage tenants to report any potential fire hazards they notice on the property.

Seek Help With Portland Wildfire Preparedness 

Managing property maintenance, especially with the increased risk of wildfires, can be overwhelming and even frightening. To cut down on your stress, consider partnering with Rent Portland Homes Darla Andrew’s Office. Our experienced team offers comprehensive property management services, including proactive maintenance and emergency preparedness. Don’t wait until it’s too late—take action now to keep your investment and tenants safe. Call Rent Portland Homes Darla Andrew’s Office at (503) 515-3170 or visit our website to learn more about how we can help you maintain and protect your rental property.