Black Lab Remodeling

Is Your Home Wildfire Ready?

California is known for our beautiful weather, sunny days, warm beaches (at least in So Cal.) and more recently Wildfires.  The ramifications of the latter has caused dramatic changes in our insurance industry environment over the past several years, to the point that many carriers have left the State.  So what are home owners to do?  Cal Fire has some suggestions as to how to best prepare your property, and we’ll discuss some of these options and what it could mean to you and your property if you implement their suggestions.  Don’t live in woods?  Read on, after talking with one Cal Fire Battalion Chief, your home doesn’t have to be in the woods to be at risk.  Our Yolo County may not have the dense wooded areas, but we are in the wind tunnel and embers can travel a from a field burn, or even from the hills of Caypay and end up on roof tops in Woodland, Davis, Winters or even as far as West Sacramento.

The information covered here is covered in more detail at readyforwildfire.org, a Cal Fire resource website.

According to Cal Fire there are three ways your home can be exposed to wildfire: flying embers, direct flame contact and radiant heat.  Embers being the most common way homes ignite during a wildfire.  Direct flame contact is usually the result of nearby vegetation or flammable materials igniting due to embers or from the wildfire burning directly to the building.  Radiant heat exposure can cause vegetation or other combustibles, when burning close to the home, for a long enough time frame, and generate enough heat to ignite a combustible component of the home.

How does one prepare their home for such things?  Cal Fire recommends two things, Home Hardening and Defensible Space.  Home Hardening is what we will focus on in this post.  According to Cal Fire, Hardening your home is retrofitting it with fire-resistant materials.  So when should you do this?  Would it be too forward of me to say, “Before your house is on fire?”

California Building Code, Chapter 7A requires specific construction materials and methods for the building of new homes in wildfire-prone areas.  These are also the same materials and methods are the minimum standards recommended when retrofitting your home.  Areas to focus on to harden your home (we’ll cover the areas bolded in this post):

    • Roof
    • Vents
    • Eaves and Soffits
    • Windows
    • Decks
    • Exterior Walls/Siding
    • Rain gutters
    • Patio Covers
    • Chimneys
    • Fences
    • Garages
    • Driveways
    • Water Supply

Roof: Your roof is the most vulnerable, embers come down and land on the roof.  If you have wood shake or shingle roof you’re at a higher risk than others.

    • Replace a wood shake or shingle roof with a Class A fire-rated roof, using materials such as composition, metal, or tile.

Windows: According to Cal Fire, heat from a wildfire can cause windows to break before the home ignites, allowing embers to enter and start fires inside.  Single-paned and large windows are particularly at risk.

    • Install dual or multi-paned windows with at least one pane being tempered glass.
    • Consider limiting the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation.
    • Install metal mesh screens on openable windows to increase ember resistance and reduce radiant heat exposure.

Decks: Surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant, noncombustible or other approved materials.

    • Remove all combustable items from underneath deck.
    • Limit combustable items on top of deck.  Bring these items inside the home or move them away from the home when wildfire threatens.

Exterior Walls/Siding: Wood products such as boards, panels, or shingles are common siding materials.  However, they are combustible and not good choices for wildfire prone areas.

    • Use noncombustible materials such as stucco, metal or fiber cement, or use ignition-resistant siding.
    • Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.
    • Plug or caulk gaps and joints with openings greater than 1/8 inch.

Fences: Ensure you construct fences using noncombustible materials within eight (8) feet of your home.  An example would be to use a metal fencing material from the side of the house to first section of fence line that lines the property.

Driveways: Ensure that access to your home complies with local fire codes.  Give the fire fighters a place get in/on to your property so they have a shot at defending your home when they can get there.

To get more in-depth information on how to get your home ready for a wildfire, go to ReadyforWildfire.org.  For information on building material listing, go to osfm.fire.ca.gov.

What will happen if you make all or some of these retrofits to your home?  Will you guarantee your home owner’s insurance policy won’t get canceled, or at least you’ll get a break on the rates?  Unfortunately, no.  Will you’re house become invincible against fire and wildfires?  Again, unfortunately, no.  What will happen, is you will give your home a fighting chance against a wildfire or threat of fire that is happening on the outside of your home.  You will give the firefighters a higher likelihood of getting to your home in time to save it.  You will add a level of protection for your home, and all the cherished memories that are stored inside a chance to not be lost.

Wildfires a part of living in the Golden State.  Home fire protection isn’t just for the woods.  It wasn’t too long ago that the skies of Yolo County were covered with ash not only from the Camp Fire, that destroyed the entire town of Paradise, CA.  But also when the fires in Napa and Sonoma happened, we again were covered.  Again, while talking with a Battalion Chief, a single car fire can produce enough embers to loose a neighborhood.  Be safe, Be prepared.

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