Did you know that many of the homes destroyed by wildfire actually caught fire from within the structure? This is because embers made their way inside the house through vents, windows, chimneys, or other openings.
Embers can travel more than a mile out ahead of the main fire body, igniting any dry fuel or easily ignited materials in their path. If they land on or become lodged in combustible materials on, in or near your house, they’ll gain a toehold and ignite.
To protect your home from an ember attack this fire season, check its exterior and perimeter for vulnerabilities, then fix, replace, adjust and clean as needed.
The First Line of Defense: Stop the Embers From Entering
Once an ember gets into your home it can burn out of control incredibly quickly. Block entry points by inspecting the following.
Vents – Install 1/8th inch metal mesh screening on attic, foundation, and eave vents to prevent embers from being sucked into your home.
Roofs – Replace wood shingles with non-combustible or fire-resistant roofing. Repair or replace any loose tiles and plug any openings.
Gutters – Remove dry fuels (dead leaves, pine needles, debris) from gutters and roof.
Siding and Trim – Caulk any gaps and replace materials as needed. Fire experts recommend having 5-6 inches of exposed concrete at the base of your house, rather than having siding reaching all the way to the ground where it’s vulnerable to embers. Finally, if you’re in a fire-prone area, consider fire-resistant siding or treatments.
Eaves – Eaves can be an entry point of fire getting into your attic. Cover them with sheathing and use fire-resistant materials where possible. Use tightly fitted joints (such as tongue and groove) instead of butt joints.
Chimneys and Stovepipes – Block out embers by installing a spark arrestor.
Skylights – The safest are double-paned glass, and one of the panes should be tempered glass. Replace any plastic skylights. If the fire is threatening, close skylights.
Windows – Replace non-tempered, single-pane windows with tempered, multi-paned glass. As with skylights, close all windows if a fire is possible.
Garage Door – Close doors as tightly as possible to prevent embers from entering. Consider using trim around the garage door opening to reduce gaps. Be sure the door is closed if there’s a chance of fire approaching.
The Second Line of Defense: Your 0-5 ft Perimeter
If an ember lands on dry, combustible fuel right at the edge of your home, it can spark a structure fire in seconds. Minimize those chances by looking at the following.
Decks and Porches – Repair or replace decayed materials and use metal flashing between the deck and house. Remove anything stored underneath the deck, as well as debris between deck boards or where it meets the house.
Patio Furniture – Move furniture and any other combustible items on your patio to the garage.
Flowerboxes – Remove if a wildfire is active in your area.
Wood Piles – Keep firewood stacks at least 30 feet from your house and other structures.
Propane Tanks – As with firewood, keep tanks no closer than 30 feet from structures.
Vehicles – Close all windows and back into the garage, or park well away from the house.
Mulch Around the Home – Mulch is flammable, so replace it with rock or gravel where it’s close to your home.
Branches and Shrubs – Make sure all are trimmed back. Replace flammable plants wherever possible.
Fortifying your home against embers is one important step in prepping for fire season. Download our checklist for fire readiness and creating a 100-foot defensible space around your home.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
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