Its wildfire season here in the Reno area. I’ve put together 10 Tips for keeping your home safe during a wildfire. As a home inspector I’m called to a house to inspect the structure and its systems. During a home inspection I find defects and suggest repairs. Some of these items can directly affect how a home survives in a wildfire.
1. Defensible Space- This is a known for many homeowners but often executed poorly. Keep the first 15’ around the house should be free of all fuel. This includes flammable vegetation. The rest of the area out to at least 100’ should be free of dead vegetation, branches weeds, leaves and other flammable debris. Trees branches should be 15’ off the ground and 15’ from other trees. Tree bases should be kept clear of flammable materials. Bushed should also be spread out.
2. Onsite Water- During a wildfire allot of water maybe needed to spare your house. Trucks can only carry so much water. If you’re far from a water source on site water may save your home. A large pond or pool can be a good source of water for the trucks.
3. Wood is Fuel- Fuel for a fire against your house isn’t limited to vegetation. Decks, fences, sheds, wood piles, and under deck storage are all areas embers can lodge and start a fire. Structures built with heavy timbers are harder to ignite. Removing these items or finding alternatives to make them more fire resistant is something that should be considered.
4. Toys, Tools and Chemicals- Keep these items at a distance. Tractors, quads, RV’s all contain plastic and usually gasoline. Gas cans, propane and other combustible chemicals should be well away from the house.
5. Don’t give Embers a chance- Floating embers are often an ignition source for houses. Sealing all gaps in trim and siding is a start. Make sure vents are covered with metal screens with no bigger than ¼” holes. Enclose soffits with non flammable material.
6. Roofs- Embers can fall onto roofs for hours during a wildfire. Keep the roof and gutters clear of leaves, needles and other debris that’s easily ignited. Skylights can be a weak point in a roof especially if they are plastic.
7. Windows-Window can break from impact but also heat in a wildfire. Having window covers on hand and ready are an option. Double pane windows fair much better in keeping flames out of the house. Windows can be upgrades tempered glass that makes the windows stand up better to impact and heat.
8. Don’t start it- You don’t want to be the source of a major wildfire. Keep burn piles, fire pits and bbq’s away from the house and fuel. Never leave a flame unattended. Keep spark arrestor on chimneys. Be responsible when off road or target shooting. Be prepared and have tools to put out a fire prior to it getting out of control.
9. Build it Better-Enclosed soffits and window glass was previously mentioned but there are fire resistant building materials available. Class A roof materials like metal are a good start. Fire resistant siding is a good choice and not much more expensive than some wood siding. Keep wood trim, window and door frames to a minimum. Wood can be replaced or even cladded with wood or stucco. Metal exterior door and garage doors are available. Decks and fences can also be constructed with metal or even be covered in stucco.
10. Its Here- No one ever wants to have their house in danged from wildfires but if it is what to do. Be ready to leave when the orders are given. Have everything you need all packed and loaded. Have all fuel sources away from the house. Fill as many containers full of water as possible. It may be needed if the power goes out and you’re on a well. You can use the water to put out small fires started by floating embers. Shut all interior doors. Unlock all exterior windows and doors. Turn all the lights on inside and out. Get out safely.
More information can be found here. http://www.fema.gov/hazard/wildfire/index.shtm