How to Prepare Your Home in The Event of a Wildfire
Incident: Horsethief Canyon Wildfire
There are several steps that homeowners can take to protect their homes and make it defensible and safe from a wildfire.
First, make sure you have identified your home and neighborhood with legible and clearly marked street names and numbers. Keep your driveway at least 12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet and a slope of less than 5 percent to provide access to emergency vehicles.
Homeowners should pay special attention to the Home Ignition Zone which means you create a survivalble space around your home by reducing the vegetation or places where embers can catch and reduces the wildfire threat. The Home Ignition Zone begins with at least 30 feet of space immediately around the home. Creating and maintaining the Home Ignition Zone reduces or eliminates ignition hazards presented by vegetation (by thinning or spacing, removing dead leaves and needles and pruning shrubs and tree branches) and combustible construction (wooden porches, decks, storage sheds, outbuildings, swing sets and fences).
Reducing ignition hazards improves the chances that the structure will survive a wildfire. Most homes that burn during a wildfire are ignited by embers or firebrands landing on the roof, in gutters, on or under decks and porches, or in vents or other openings in the home. Other homes burn from small flames (surface fire) that can touch the house - such as dry grass that can allow a fire to run right up to the siding. That's why Firewise principles recommend starting with your home and working your way out into the landscape. You can find more information about Firewise principles at www.firewise.org
Make sure you have a nonflammable roof covering and assembly. Your roof is the most vulnerable spot for embers that blow in and collect.
Clean out gutters and downspouts of debris and leaves.
Keep the surface and area beneath decks and porches free of debris and leaves.
Maintain a 3-to-5-foot space around your house and all attachments that is "fuel free" - no flammable mulch, woodpiles, or plants that can allow fire to touch the house.
Screen vents with metal mesh; if possible, replace large windows with double paned or tempered glass to resist breakage during a fire.
Of course, large flames can and will ignite your home if they are close enough to the house. Ensure that trees and shrubs within the first 30 feet of your home are healthy, spaced apart, and not overhanging the house. If your home is on a slope, thin out vegetation to a further distance (50 to 100 feet) to slow fire's spread as it approaches uphill.
Prune large trees so that the lowest branches are at least 6 to 10 feet high to prevent a fire on the ground from spreading to the tree tops.
Within the Home Ignition Zone, remove flammable plants that contain resins, oils, and waxes that burn readily: ornamental junipers, paupon, holly, red cedar, and young pine.
A list of less-flammable plants can be obtained from your local state forester, forestry office, county extension office, or landscape specialist.
Although mulch does help retain soil moisture, mulch and other landscape materials can become flammable when too dry...
Firewise roof construction materials include Class-A asphalt shingles, metal, slate or clay tile, and concrete products. The inclusion of a fire-resistant subroof adds protection. Make a periodic inspection looking for deterioration such as breaks and spaces between roof tiles.
Keep the roof, gutters, and eaves clear of leaves and other debris.
Make sure under-eave and soffit vents are as close as possible to the roof line. Box in eaves, but be sure to provide adequate ventilation to prevent condensation and mildew.
Preparing your property for fire does not mean removing all your trees. There are many things you can do to make your home resistant from embers or firebrands that may involve simply removing overhanging branches or limbing trees up from the ground.
Remember that healthy, well-maintained trees or forestland on your property will provide many benefits and not necessarily pose a major risk for wildfire spread. Your site-specific risk depends on the species and arrangement of the trees, as well as other factors. Consult an arborist or forester to learn more about the health of your landscape. Removing or thinning out some trees may actually be necessary to maintain the health of the rest.
If you are in a preevacuation situation, have tools available (shovel, rake, axe, handsaw, or chain saw) in case there are embers that blow onto your property. Homeowners should also maintain an emergency water source.
The time to plan for any emergency is prior to the event. If evacuations are a possibility, take time to discuss with your family what actions you will take. Post emergency telephone numbers in a visible place. Decide where you will go and how you will get there. Leave before it is too late. Have a plan for your pets. Practice family fire drills.