It’s prime time for wildfires in the west, especially with temperatures soaring into the summer. California’s already battling raging wildfires, putting homes and lives in danger.
The latest wildfire to hit the state has already claimed over 260 homes and 71,000 acres of land. And last September, over 1,000 homes were obliterated by two fires in California. Suburbs that are even remotely close to forests are vulnerable during hot and dry seasons.
Despite these dangers, there’s still a lot you can do to protect your home from wildfires. Proper preparation can mean the difference between saving your home or dealing with a pile of ashes.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent your home from being a casualty from a wildfire.
1. Use Fire-Resistant Construction Materials
If your home is being newly built or you’re renovating your existing home at any point in the near future, consider using materials that are resistant to heat. The roof, in particular, is very vulnerable to fire, so using any cedar planks is definitely a no-go, even if you’re located in an urban center. Homes in California tend to have Class A-rated roofs, including asphalt shingles. However, steel or tile are preferred.
The same goes for the exterior walls of your home. Fiber cement or stucco tend to hold up well against fires, along with a non-flammable underlayment to boost fire resistance. Cover your attic and sub-floor vents with non-combustible screening with a small mesh size, and install small, tempered or thermal-pane glass windows to limit breakage or melting.
2. Hang Heat-Resistant Drapes and Shutters on Your Windows
Not only are the windows themselves venerable to intense heat, so are the drapes and shutters that surround them. If the fire causes the windows to melt or break, the embers will go right through and catch the drapes and furniture on fire.
For this reason, you should replace the window drapes with more heat-resistant fabrics. Installing exterior non-combustible window shutters can also help keep the flames and embers out when closed.
3. Clear Out Flammable Debris From Around Your House
One of the quickest ways to keep your home safe from a wildfire is to eliminate any combustible debris that is scattered around its perimeter. Things like piles of leaves, dead grass, and firewood stacks should be cleared out. Even structures like your fence or deck should be taken down and replaced if they’re made of wood.
Keeping open space around your home will also help make the job of fire crews much easier and more effective. Uncluttered space should stretch out a minimum of 30 feet from the home, if possible. The clearer the area, the better.
4. Keep the Lawn Short and Hydrated
Grass that’s dry, brown, and overgrown is a fire hazard. Not only will dead grass catch fire more easily, its length will also help it spread faster. This is especially true if the dry grass reaches low-hanging branches on trees. Keep your lawn well-hydrated and mowed short (no more than 3 inches). Short, moist grass is much less likely to carry a fire.
5. Clean and Properly Screen Your Eavestroughs
Your home’s eavestroughs are the ideal places for embers to land in and start a fire in the interior of your home. Make sure that your eavestroughs are cleaned out on a regular basis and properly screened. Dry leaves in the gutters are a sure-fire way to get a fire going, so make sure these spots are regularly maintained and covered as necessary.
6. Keep Adequate Space Between Trees on Your Property
If you’ve got multiple trees on your property, make sure the branches between each are at least 10 feet away from each other. This will help minimize the chances of a fire jumping through the branches and spreading quickly. You should also maintain the same distance between the trees and your home, and make sure that any branches don’t extend over your home’s roof or chimney.
Considering the vulnerability of homes to wildfires in many parts of California and the incredible devastation that can result, taking a few steps to protect your home is a no-brainer. It can even help slow the spread of the fire, and help it extinguish sooner to keep destruction to a minimum.