As many as 84% of wildfires are caused by humans – leaving campfires unattended, discarding cigarettes carelessly or other negligent acts. Safeguard your home from wildfires by firescaping your property. Learn what precautions to take within each of the three defensible zones around your property, as well as how to create an ember-resistant home.
Know Your Zones
- Choose noncombustible materials, such as rock or gravel. For walkways, use brick or concrete.
- For vegetation, select low-growing plants, like irrigated flowers, or a lawn.
- Never store firewood, lumber or other combustibles under an attached deck.
- Remove shrubs from beneath trees. Space trees at least 10 feet from each other; more on sloping areas. Clear dead vegetation and trim branches overhanging your home. Keep plants healthy.
- Move RVs/trailers into the 30- to 100-foot zone or create a defensible space around each. Create defensible space around each structure as well.
- Remove dead trees, shrubs and other dry vegetation.
- Thin and separate trees and shrubs. Trim trees and remove shrubs to eliminate ladder fuels under trees. Branch removal from the trunk should not exceed more than 1/3 of tree height.
- Extend zone to 150-200 feet if your home is near or atop a steep slope.
Create an Ember-Resistant Home
Look for areas outside your home where the siding is near or touching the ground. Wind-blown embers can accumulate at the base of the wall and ignite the building.
A house can have many vents, especially if it has an attic or crawl space – potential ember entry points. Dryer vents, too. Cover all vents with at least 1/8-inch mesh screen to help block embers. If you live in a colder area, however, be careful – the cold weather can cause the vents to become blocked. Check with a professional for guidance on how to proceed.
Some homes have open-eave construction with vents that can allow embers in. In a fire, these areas can also trap heat and cause flammable framing and sheathing to ignite more quickly. A solution is to enclose the underside of the roof overhang with noncombustible or fire-retardant materials.
Install a Drip Edge
Don’t use untreated wood shake or shingle roofing. Install a metal drip edge where the gutter meets the roof to protect sheathing and fascia from water damage. The drip edge also can help keep wind-blown embers from igniting any debris in the gutter.
Replace Single-pane Windows
The glass is the most vulnerable part of a window. Multi-pane windows with tempered glass offer about four times the resistance to breaking when exposed to radiant heat. They also are less prone to breaking, therefore allowing embers and flames to penetrate. Consider replacing domed skylights, which are typically made from a plastic material, with flat, tempered glass skylights.
Check the Deck
A deck can easily fuel a fire. Never store combustible materials underneath it, replace dry and rotted boards, and clear debris between the boards that could catch fire.