Throughout late spring, summer, and early autumn, the western United States—particularly Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas—faces a threat scarcely known to the rest of the nation. As temperatures rise and precipitation dwindles, the vegetation becomes drier, and wildfire season begins.

The risk of a wildfire breaking out is determined by a number of conditions, such as availability of fuel (that is, anything that can burn) and climate. “These conditions can occur at various times of the year, depending on the specific geographic area,” says Stuart Coombs, a Wildland Urban Interface Specialist for Texas A&M Forest Service in Conroe, Texas.

In Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, moisture generated by precipitation and snowpack reduces, and the wildfire season often begins in early May. Conversely, in northern states like Idaho and Montana, wildfire season begins later, often around August. On the Pacific Coast, the season reaches its pinnacle between August and September and can continue into October.

According to Courtney Peterson, Wildfire Mitigation Education Coordinator for Colorado State Forest Service in Fort Collins, Colo., some states face a year-round possibility of experiencing a wildfire. “Depending on weather conditions and fuel moisture, wildfires potentially can burn any time of the year in Colorado.”

Should a wildfire take place, your top priority is reaching safety as soon as possible. You don’t want to waste time gathering belongings to take with you. However, if you’re preparing for this natural disaster ahead of time, you might consider temporarily moving your valuable possessions to a self storage facility.

Preparing for a Wildfire with Self Storage

If you live in an area that’s prone to wildfires, especially during a dry season with little precipitation, you should consider moving your valuables to a self storage facility. While household items like furniture and electronics can be easily replaced, certain belongings like personal documents and photos cannot. This is a situation where self storage can be extremely valuable, as it will help keep those items safe.

By planning ahead and moving special items into storage early in the year (before your area’s wildfire season typically begins), you can save yourself a great deal of stress in the event of a disaster. If a wildfire is approaching your neighborhood, you may be given notice days in advance, which means you can move everything to storage.

Stuart Coombs on Wildfires and Self StorageBut what is an ideal location for storage? “A flat area free of all burnable vegetation on all sides provides the best location for safety in the event of an approaching wildfire,” says Coombs. “Parking lots, dirt fields, green pastures, and gravel pits are good examples. A general rule is to be positioned away from [the nearest vegetation] a distance of three times [the vegetation’s height]. For example: If vegetation is 30 feet tall, one would want to be centered at a 90-foot radius with a 180-foot-diameter safe area.”

Peterson similarly recommends steep slopes. “Wildfires tend to burn up-slope,” she says. “[Structures] located at the top of the slopes with dense continuous fuels are at a greater risk of burning during a wildfire.”

For these reasons, a self storage facility on flat terrain in the center of town is less likely to suffer fire damage, as opposed to one on the outskirts of town. Be sure to take note of how wide the facility’s parking lot is and if there are any trees or shrubbery nearby.

How Self Storage Can Help Victims of Wildfire Damage

If you’re a homeowner who has suffered wildfire-related damage, some facilities may be able to help you. For instance, in May of 2014, wildfires ravaged San Diego County, Calif., and caused an estimated $22.5 million in damage. In response to the disaster, storage facilities in the area began offering free storage and moving assistance to people who had suffered property loss.

Michael Larkin Quote on Self Storage and Wildifire“We offered free storage for one month to customers [who] lost their homes or suffered some kind of property loss due to the fires,” says Michael Larkin, Property Manager for Carlsbad Self Storage in Carlsbad, Calif. “We also offered a free moving truck to transport their belongings.”

In addition to free transportation of belongings to the self storage facility and 30 days of free storage, Carlsbad Self Storage offered a 10% discount on moving supplies, such as cardboard boxes and packing tape. This saved evacuees the expense and effort of purchasing packing supplies elsewhere during their time of trouble.

Using this offer, victims of wildfire damage in San Diego County could move valuables and large possessions out of the way, giving them some peace of mind and extra space while repairing property damage or finding a new home.

So if you live in a wildfire area or have experienced damage to your property, keep in mind that self storage might be able to help both before and after disaster has struck. Be sure to take some precautions before the dry season to minimize any potential damage should a wildfire occur, too.