Wildfires have been big news in the West for the last five or so years. The number of fires, the increasing acreage and property, timber and the loss of life is growing. Then this Fall wildfires decimated huge swaths of California — including cities — killing 42 people and destroying close to 9,000 structures.
The rage of those wildfires took on a national focus since — besides the deaths and destruction of property — many of those structures are famous wineries.
It appears that wildfires can happen anywhere at anytime. Under certain circumstances areas of any state are subject to a similar fate. It has led to people nationwide asking questions about how to protect themselves, their homes and property from wildfire.
Steve Quarles of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety said buildings don’t have to lie in the path of flames to be at risk. The real danger is much, much smaller. “During a wildfire, the major source of ignition is the wind-blown ember that lands on or near the house,” he said.
Embers can travel from a mile to a half a mile ahead of a fire. So homes in the path — but in front of the fire — can begin burning before a wall of fire arrives. Thus Quarles suggests suggesting to your clients there are things they can do to protect themselves in advance of a fire.
A defensible space: Create a defensible space around the home and around other buildings on the property. This is pretty much a no-brainer and is something you need to share with your homeowner clients. California’s Cal Fire says the area within 30-feet of your home needs to be “lean and green.”
• Remove dead leaves and weeds
• Keep grasses around the home short
• Make sure trees are spaced 10 feet apart
• If your home is on a slope then that spacing needs to be greater
• Dead and dry plants need to be removed
• Wood piles need to be at least 30-feet from your home
A no-burn zone: A non-combustible zone needs to be set up within three to five feet of the home. Do not use bark mulch. Use rock mulch close to the home instead.
By the way, the no-burn zone also means above the home, too. Tree limbs and shrubs need to be trimmed so they don’t hang over the house or the roof. And make sure your siding is flame-proof. It ought not touch the ground. “If your siding reaches all the way to the ground, embers can accumulate at the base of the wall and ignite the siding,” Quarles said.
He suggests a five to six inch concrete base. If that’s not possible then install metal flashing. And if you go that direction, make sure the flashing is tucked inside the siding so water doesn’t accumulate inside.
Secure vents: A lot of homes catch fire on the inside during a wildfire when winds blow embers into the home from vents in the attic, crawlspaces and dryer vents. Quarles said this is correctable when you use correct vent covering.
“If it’s a quarter-inch mesh, get an eighth-of-an-inch piece of screening at a minimum (meaning the gaps between wires are no more than one-eighth inch) and attach it at the inlet. You can do this from the outside or the inside, whatever is more convenient,” he said.
Do note mesh that is more fine in nature will clog and don’t use plastic or fiberglass mesh. It’s flammable.
The Roof: Pine needles, clogged gutters, dead leaves in or on both are fire fuel. “It’s just a maintenance thing. Homeowners need to keep debris out of the gutter and off of the roof,” Quarles said.
By the way, if a roof is made of wooden shakes or other flammable material, replace it with fire-resistant materials.
Metal drip-edge flashing can protect the home if a fire happens in a gutter.
You also will want to make sure your clients — and you — are properly insured. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) recently issued a long article for consumers that you may want to share.
It addresses these important issues that will be a good starting point for discussion about the need to be properly insured:
1. Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home?
2. Do I have enough insurance to replace all of my possessions?
3. Do I have enough coverage for additional living expenses?
4. Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?
Click here to access the Insurance Information Institute article.
You can also click here to find fire prevention tips to share from Cal Fire.
Source links: KQED, Insurance Information Institute, Cal Fire