Top 5 Ways to Fire Protect Your Home
With the recent Camp Fire that devastated the California town of Paradise being the most destructive wildfire in California’s history—with the current death toll at a horrifying 85—Americans living in areas at risk for wildfires are more worried than ever about the danger they pose to their homes and families, and what can be done to protect their homes from wildfires. Fortunately there are a number of strategies for fire-proofing your home by using fire-resistant strategies and increasing the chances it will survive a wildfire. Here are 5 tips to make your home safer and fire resistant in case of a wildfire:
1. Install a Fire and Ember Resistant Vent
Attics are a particularly vulnerable area of homes when it comes to wildfires. Not only are they often dry, wooden, and incredibly flammable, but their ventilation gives easy access for embers and flames that can burn down a home. Many homes that burn due to wildfires are not ignited by roaring flames adjacent to the structure, but by small burning embers which can travel for miles through the air. They are small enough to easily pass through an home’s ventilation and quickly ignite the attic. The way to prevent this from happening is to install a fire and ember-resistant vent (we recommend the fire-proof Vulcan Vent, which is coated with a non-toxic material that will expand when exposed to a significant heat source to close its ¼ inch ventilation holes). Not only will this prevent airborne embers from entering your home and burning it to the ground, but it will also prevent the heat from nearby flames from entering your home and igniting your attic.
2. Remove Dry Vegetation from Your Lawn
Dead weeds in particular are highly flammable. This can especially be an issue in the fall and spring, but depending on how dry the area where the home is it can be a crucial issue all year round. To fireproof your home and keep it safe from dangerous wildfires, the best option is to remove dry weeds and dead plants, but if that is an unappealing prospect, the second best strategy for protection from fire is to wet them down. Keeping your grass cut short will also prevent it from becoming dry and flammable—a huge risk for homes living in areas prone to wildfires, such as California.
3. Tile or Metal Roofing
When building a new home, or replacing the roof of your current home, consider using tile or metal roofing if you want to protect your home against the risk of wildfires. Both of these materials are fire resistant, but have the downside of being rather pricey. As far as appearances go, both tile and metal are very attractive materials for the roof of your home. As opposed to other roofing materials, tile and metal are more highly resistant to burning embers from wildfires that could ignite and destroy your home. In addition to your roofing material, consider the material of your home’s exterior in regards to flammability; if you want to optimize your home’s resistance to the possibilities of damage and destruction from wildfires, a brick or stone exterior will provide significantly more protection than other available substances.
4. Use Fire-Resistant Plants
While there is no such thing as a 100% fire-proof plant, several plants are highly resistant to burning due to their high-moisture and low-resin content, in addition to being low to the ground. These plants can be strategically placed in your yard to provide protective barriers against flame and ward off destruction from wildfires. This is a very cost-effective option for adding some fire-protection to your home, with the added bonus of beautifying your home. Many of them are ideal for California because they are naturally drought resistant. Some fire-resistant plants include:
• Rockrose, iceplant, aloe, currant, cotoneaster, sumac, shrub apples, hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, lavender, salvias, yucca, agave and many more
• Plant oak, maple, poplar, and cherry trees rather than more flammable conifers such as pine and fir
In addition to using plants to create a protective strategic barrier against wildfires, you can use rock, mulch, and flowerbeds to block the oncoming path of flames and embers. Stone walls and patios are useful features as well to have in your house’s landscaping in an effort to disrupt the path of flames.
5. Smoke Detectors and Fire Extinguisher
A working smoke detector can save your life if an ember should hit a vulnerable part of your home and ignite. It is important to change the battery of your smoke detector twice a year and check it once a month. Having a fire extinguisher in your home is an added precaution that will allow you to put out a fire if you catch it while still small, but is not enough to extinguish a fire if it has grown to a more considerable size.
There are several common-sense tips that may make all the difference between life and death when it comes to fire. Be careful where you smoke! It is estimated that up to 90% of all wildfires in California are caused by human activity. Carelessly throwing a still burning cigarette can have fatal consequences, so a key protocol in order to fire-protect homes with smokers is to have designated inflammable butt cans or ashtrays. Another simple technique to boost the fire resistance of your home is to store any gasoline, fuel, or other highly-flammable substance in your basement or garage. If incoming embers reach these substances it could cause a deadly explosion, so the last place to keep them if you live in a climate prone to wildfires is out in the open in your home. Removing trash from your lawn is another common sense approach to fireproofing your home, as plastic trash items are often flammable.
While all of these strategies can possibly save your home and the lives of you and your loved ones in case of a wildfire, it is important to have an evacuation plan. Your life is more important than your home, and in the worst case scenario having a strategy of who to call and what route to evacuate by is invaluable. Fire proofing your home through multiple strategies can add levels of fire protection, so that if a wildfire occurs near the area of your home you have a much higher chance of not losing it to flames.