Wildfire photo from Shutterstock
Fire season hit the West early this year and with a vengeance, threatening homes and lives. Proper preparation can really make the difference between a saved home or a pile of embers and broken hearts during a wildfire - read on for six important steps to protect your castle if a fire comes licking at the doorstep.
The first step is often the most effective and doable projects for a homeowner—clear combustible debris from around the house. This include obvious things like dry grass and brush, stacks of firewood and debris, and some not so obvious things like a wood fence and even a wooden deck. Defensible spaces should go out at least 30 feet from a house and large concentric rings of fuel reduction out further improve the odds. The clearer the area the better chances a fire crew will stay to protect the property.
Eaves and vent openings are a perfect place for embers to fly into and start a home ablaze from the interior. Making sure they are not too numerous, and properly screened and maintained may seem like a little detail but is often the weakest point of a house in a wildfire. Even keeping gutters clean can help protect the home's vulnerable eaves.
Roofs are often the most venerable part of a house in a fire so it goes without saying cedar shakes are out of the question, even in urban areas. Class A rated roofs are the norm, including many asphalt shingle types, but tile and steel are preferred options. Same goes for siding—a shingle or wood wall is very poor while a fiber cement type stands up well. A low or non flammable underlayment dramatically improves the fire resistance.
Windows are also exceptionally venerable as the intense heat can go right through and actually catch drapes and furniture on fire. The easy solution is replacing the window fabric with a more heat resistant product. Windows can break as well so smaller tempered units are more stable than large windows. The best choice is installing outside non-combustable shutters which can be quickly closed in an emergency.
Designing a new home provides a perfect opportunity to incorporate fireready measures. Good access to the property for emergency vehicle is a must. Avoiding complex shapes and bump outs reduces places for embers to lodge and cause a hotspot. Sprinklers help but, alas, someone needs be there to turn them on so having a standing water source for firefighters can be just as effective
"Location, location, location" is not just for resale. Placing a house in a thick stand of trees is plainly asking for trouble, but so is setting a home on a hilltop or overhanging a prominent rock outcropping where it becomes a clear target for a moving fire. Too often people’s dream homes are just not designed appropriately in the urban/wildland interface and hazards of oncoming fires, so a few simple rules can make all the difference in protecting that assets from mother nature’s fury.