Homes burn from a wildfire’s flame front, radiant heat of things burning nearby, and embers. Most often, embers ignite homes by landing on them or by igniting flammable things nearby. Research demonstrates that you can reduce these risks, but there will always be a chance of home loss during a wildfire.
To reduce this chance, residents should use a coupled strategy of an ember and fire resistant structures and defensible space. Your efforts for home fire preparedness should start from the house out. While fire-resistant materials help protect structures, maintenance is an unsung hero of wildfire home survival.
The most important areas to focus on are:
Fire and ember resistant roofs are your first line of defense:
- Install fire resistant materials, including Nonflammable Class A roof material and metal, corrosion resistant gutter guards, and siding adjacent to roof
- Maintain clear roofs and gutters of dead leaves, needles, debris
- Fix any loose or missing roofing, and fill gaps between roof and sheathing with bird plugs, or flashing
- Replaced as needed.
- Beware of complex roofs where siding or skylights may be susceptible. Learn more about skylights below.
- All permitted roofs installed after 2008 in the SRA meet these requirements.
Vents are important to remove moisture from your attic, crawl space, or basement. Vents also allow embers to enter a structure, and can even let flames inside of a structure:
- Cheap, short-term solution: cover vents with ⅛” wire. In easy to access areas, 1/16” wire can be used as long as it can be replaced or cleaned of cob-webs and debris regularly so that good air flow is maintained.
- Expensive, low-maintenance: Install new vents that meet CA Standards, such as BrandGuard, Ember Out, and Vulcan.
- Remove fuel under and near vents so that flames and embers do not go through them into the structure.
- Remove flammable items stored in attic and crawl space.
- Consider creating vent covers from plywood that you can put-up if you have time before an evacuation.
New recommendations from FireWise USA and Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety:
- 0-5 ft: No fuel*
- 5-30 ft: Lean, clean, and green
- 30-100 ft: Reduced fuels
- 100-200 ft: Reduced fuels if near slope, or heavy shrub and tree cover
*The 0-5 ft zone also extends along the driveway evacuation route
Decks can catch homes on fire.
- Consider installing a patio instead of a deck. Build new decks out of fire resistant material, and follow fire resistant installation practices.
- Remove combustibles under or within 5’ of deck.
- Maintain clear of leaves, needles, and debris.
- Consider nonflammable furnishings (chairs, cushions, potted plants, umbrellas, shade cloths, etc.). Reduce the amount of flammable furnishings that you need to remove, and make sure that they are easy to remove quickly. It is best to remove flammable items at the beginning of fire season, or at least on Red Flag Warning days.
Windows break from extreme heat from radiant heat or direct flame contact.
- Double-pane tempered glass is best protection from radiant heat.
- Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens, windows, and caulk around them.
- Remove fuel from under and near windows so that they do not break from heat.
- If you cannot modify other structures and dense fuel are within 30 ft, replace windows with double-pane tempered glass and consider non-combustible shutters or plywood covers to use during evacuations.
Eaves can trap heat from nearby burning fuel, and allow embers and flames entering attic through under-eave vents.
- Caulk or plug gaps >1/16” around eaves, rafters. and blocking.
- Enclose eaves with fire-rated material, like cement board, if possible.
- Replace vents with ⅛” screen or WUI rated vents to reduce ember and flame penetration.
Siding is vulnerable to extended time of flames and radiant heat, especially if there is a lot of fuel within 30 ft of the structure. You easily can control the landscaping and items stored within 30 ft, which greatly mitigates the risk. Nearby structures, like pump houses and neighbors, dramatically increase vulnerability and require more mitigation measures.
- Maintain a 6” vertical noncombustible zone from the ground to where the siding begins.
- Replace dry rot, seal joints and cracks >1/16”
- Garage door weather stripping if >1/16”
- Use noncombustible siding like stucco, cement board, etc. This is a higher priority if if other structures are close.
Get wildfire mitigation materials that meet CA Fire Marshall’s tests. Choose “Class A” roofing materials at any hardware store and search database for other materials below.
Keywords to search:
- VENTS FOR WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE (W.U.I.)
- DECKING FOR WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE (W.U.I.)
- EXTERIOR WINDOW FOR WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE (W.U.I.)
- EXTERIOR WALL SIDING AND SHEATHING FOR WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE (W.U.I.)
- EXTERIOR DOOR FOR WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE (W.U.I.)