By the Deer Springs Fire Safe Council
The wildfires that struck San Diego County in 2007 taught us a great deal about wildfire and how it penetrates a home’s defenses. One big takeaway from that fire is that embers take flight on the wind and act as paratroopers, expanding the fire front by starting new spot fires miles ahead of the fire’s head.
A firebrand landing on a dead tree near your house, on dry leaves in your rain gutter or on a woodpile can spread fire to your home’s interior in a matter of minutes.
Here are some tools and tips on how to harden your home against fire intrusion:
One cheap and quick defense is to secure attic vents and air holes. The holes prevent attic mildew, so don’t seal them entirely. But you can keep embers out by stapling one-eighth-inch wire screening over vents and holes.
If your attic has round soffit air holes at the roofline, seal these with bird stops, metal disks with slats for ventilation. The slats let air in but can keep embers out. You can paint them to match your trim.
If your deck is made of wood, replace it with ignition-resistant, non-combustible material. Patio covers should also be constructed of ignition-resistant materials. Remove flammable material and debris from decks and patios.
Remove combustible items that are attached to your house, such as wooden fences, woodpiles, and wooden arbors or pergolas. If these catch fire they spread the fire to your house.
If fire is approaching, move any combustible items away from your house. Plastic patio furniture can catch fire very easily, so clear it away from your home. Cloth shade umbrellas can also ignite. If you have a pool, throw the furniture in there. If you don’t, toss the items as far from a structure as you can.
Your roof is the most exposed part of your home and it should be constructed of a fire-resistant material, classified as Class A fire-rated materials. This includes composition, tile or metal. If you have a wood shake roof, replace it, and don’t delay. If you have a concrete tile roof, pack the edges with concrete. Another defensive measure is to box roof eaves with fire-resistant material. These last measures are costly, but they’re cheaper than replacing a home.
To learn about ways to harden your structure against wildfire, check out the diagram on this website: http://deerspringsfiresafecouncil.com/linked/reducefirehazards_rgb.jpg.
CAL FIRE’s Ready for Wildfire website has excellent tips on structure hardening at http://readyforwildfire.org/Hardening-Your-Home/.
A version of this article appears in Fire Safety News, a monthly e-newsletter published by the Deer Springs Fire Safe Council. To subscribe go to www.DeerSpringsFireSafeCouncil.com and click on the “SUBSCRIBE” link.