Being Ready for Wildfire starts with maintaining an adequate defensible space and by hardening your home by using fire resistant building materials.
In a recent blog post, I presented my firefighter son’s Family Emergency Plan information. Here are several low-cost ways to harden your home to maximize its ability to withstand a wildfire and to keep your family safe when you can’t evacuate.
Nearly all of the 68th Assembly District is considered “Wildland Urban Interface (WUI),” where human made structures and infrastructure (e.g., cell towers, schools, water supply facilities, etc.) are in or adjacent to areas prone to the danger of wildfire. Newer developmnents are pressing ever closer to wildland, increasing the danger of WUI wildfires and the need to be prepared.
Taking the right actions now to prepare your family and home for the next California wildfire can save your property and your family members’ lives.
The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. Homes with wood or shingle roofs are at high risk of being destroyed during a wildfire. Build your roof or re-roof with materials such as composition, metal or tile. Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching.
Vents on homes create openings for flying embers. Cover all vent openings with 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch metal mesh. Do not use fiberglass or plastic mesh because they can melt and burn.
Protect vents in eaves or cornices with baffles to block embers (mesh is not enough).
Eaves and Soffits:
Eaves and soffits should be protected with ignition-resistant or non-combustible materials.
Heat from a wildfire can cause windows to break even before the home is on fire. This allows burning embers to enter and start fires inside. Single-paned and large windows are particularly vulnerable. Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breakage in a fire. Consider limiting the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation.
Wood products, such as boards, panels or shingles, are common siding materials. However, they are flammable and not good choices for fire-prone areas. Build or remodel your walls with ignition resistant* building materials, such as stucco, fiber cement wall siding, fire retardant, treated wood, or other approved materials. Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.
Surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant*, non-combustible, or other approved materials. Ensure that all combustible items are removed from underneath your deck.
Keep rain gutters clear or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris.
Use the same ignition-resistant* materials for patio coverings as a roof.
Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-flammable screen. Use metal screen material with openings no smaller than 3/8-inch and no larger than 1/2-inch to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.
Have a fire extinguisher and tools such as a shovel, rake, bucket, and hose available for fire emergencies. Install weather stripping around and under the garage door to prevent embers from blowing in. Store all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.
Consider using ignition-resistant* or non-combustible fence materials to protect your home during a wildfire.
Driveways and Access Roads:
Driveways should be built and maintained in accordance with state and local codes to allow fire and emergency vehicles to reach your home. Consider maintaining access roads with a minimum of 10 feet of clearance on either side, allowing for two-way traffic. Ensure that all gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate emergency equipment.
Trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass.
Clearly Marked Address:
Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road.
Consider having multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property. If you have a pool or well, consider getting a pump.
Watch CalFire’s video on harding your home to protect from wildfire:
Wildfire is Coming: Are You Ready?
Fire Information Engine—Preparing Your Home
University of California—Fire Resources and Information
Orange County County Authority — Ready, Set, Go!
Orange County County Authority — Wildland Fire Danger Rating
Note: Ignition-resistant building materials are those that resist ignition or sustained burning when exposed to embers and small flames from wildfires. Examples of ignition-resistant materials include “non-combustible materials” that don’t burn, exterior grade fire-retardant-treated wood lumber, fire-retardant-treated wood shakes and shingles listed by the State Fire Marshal (SFM) and any material that has been tested in accordance with SFM Standard 12-7A-5.