It seems that fire season comes earlier each year, so it's never too early to prepare your home and community.
Common sense tells us that the risk of wildfires is heightened during periods of extreme heat and amid the worsening drought. However, instead of worrying around the clock, we can look for ways to reduce the impact of fires in our communities. Thankfully, there is a wealth of resources available to combat an increasingly dry climate. Whether you are a homeowner or renter, research tells us that the odds that your home will survive a wildfire increase when you take intentional actions to reinforce your home’s materials, maintenance practices, and design and installation options.
Wildland fires are spread by the moving flames themselves as well as by the distribution of burning embers. Embers are small pieces of plants, trees, or buildings that are light enough to be blown through the air and can result in the rapid spread of wildfire where embers are blown ahead of the main fire and start new fires.
One way to prepare for these "ember showers" is to clear as much brush or undergrowth as possible from the area immediately around your home. This way embers traveling through the air have less potential fuel to ignite. It's also important to keep leaves and other combustible material off of the roof, and when possible to use fire-resistant roof materials, such as asphalt composition shingles.
Homes can reduce wildfire damage through a combination of the following:
1) Careful landscape selection, placement, and maintenance
2) Awareness and management of combustible materials on the property (e.g., leaf litter or lawn furniture) during your fire season
3) Incorporation of fire and ember resistant construction materials, installation details and maintenance.
This table summarizes the vulnerabilities of your home and recommends actions for each of the three areas listed above. (via University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.)
It is also helpful to find out what fire hazard severity zone your home is located in. These risk zones are determined using factors such as fuel, slope and fire weather. Two resources for this are the existing Statewide map and maps of each County or a hazard zone map where you can enter your home address.
Next, identify your home ignition zones. This image illustrates the difference between the immediate, intermediate, and extended zones. By doing so, you are able to essentially map out different potential vulnerabilities and work towards creating a defensible space. (Here are more great tips on what you can do to prep your home.) Image: National Fire Protection Association
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