It is unsettling to see our fire season now begin even earlier than ever before.
This topic is on top of everyone’s minds and much has been written about it. The good news is that our county evacuation and fire-fighting strategies have become more efficient and comprehensive. PG&E has also attended to some serious deferred power line protection and maintenance. But we can’t stop there, the battle must now be viewed on a homeowner level. We can help the cause by focusing on the task of hardening our homes, and that is by no means limited to the ubiquitous Juniper’s removal. Here are the facts:
Two of every three homes that are destroyed by fire were ignited by wind born embers, not flames. When firefighters move into a threatened area, they immediately assess what is a defensible space. Homes with thick vegetation and flammable roofing tiles are written off as lost. The problems can be as subtle as issues with vents that serve as entry points for embers causing these homes to burn from within. We must to do our best to show that we have made their jobs a bit easier and our massive community scale vegetation management of the last three years is a huge step.
Focal Points: Roofing, vents and siding.
The problem here is these are all contact point for embers. Fire retardant roofing tiles are No. 1.
The second most common entry point of embers is vents. There are several different kinds of vents in different parts of the house e.g. foundation, louvered, attic/gable vents, Soffit vents (on the underside of eaves) and roof vents. The vents are necessary but often they have inadequate screens or none at all. The standard screen has quarter inch spaces which are not ember proof. Making sure you have screen that have one-eighth inch spacing is important.
The Soffit vents are particularly vulnerable as the winds driving the fire can get caught up under the eaves pushing the embers into those vents and possibly burning the underside of the eave. Also recommended is sealing off the underside of eaves with panels. Heat also intensifies as it swirls under the overhang.
Siding: This is another vulnerable aspect. It would make sense that when it comes time to paint our homes that we make sure the painters will use Flamecheck. Mixing 8oz. this fire retardant into every gallon will provide a Grade A rated level of protection.
Windows: It goes without saying that all window frames should have a metal facing on the exterior side and be dual glazed.
Decks are another big problem for a lot of our homes on hillsides. The space under decks especially those that are higher off the ground must be cleared of any flammable materials underneath. Fire and wind do the same thing under decks that they do under eaves, they intensify. Redwood decks should be a thing of the past and replaced with manmade materials that won’t burn. Similarly, people should eliminate wood furniture on decks and patios, more fuel.
Clean your gutters twice a year to eliminate fuel.
Given that we have an OVA and most often sub HOA’s with their own set of rules and regulations, the process can be more daunting. But in the end, it’s not just peace of mind we are talking about but a matter of preserving our home values and securing reasonably priced home-owner’s insurance as well.