Can Your Home Withstand a Wildfire? |

Can Your Home Withstand a Wildfire?

Bruce Puphal
Member, Lake Wildwood Firewise Committee

Our past two articles have brought to your attention why people won't take the time to make their homes fire safe and also to ask the question: "Are you fire safe?" This time I would like to take the position that you have really given this issue some serious thought and you have called the EMO office and scheduled an appointment to have a Defensible Space Advisor come to complete an inspection of the defensible space around your home.

When we get the opportunity to meet with you, our main goal is to "educate" you on California Fire's Public Resource Code Section 4291. This state law is what is used throughout California regarding defensible space around the home.

It is important for us as advisors to help you understand that you need to make your home "stand alone" in the event of a major wildland fire near our development.

Do not expect the fire department to have firefighters stationed in front of your home at the onset of a major incident. It will take several hours or longer to have enough resources on hand to combat any large fire. So, the more you can do to be prepared, the better chances you have to having your home survive.

Here are a few things that trained advisors look for during the inspection:

Are dead and dying limbs, leaves, brush and trees removed at least 10 feet from the structure? Removing these items helps to break the fuel chain leading to your home. Are roof and gutters free of leaves/needles? Burning embers can ignite the leaves and needles and potentially spread fire up underneath the roofing material and into the attic.

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Are tree limbs cleared within 10 feet of chimney/stove outlet? Keeping tree limbs away from a heat source is a simple way to keep a fire from igniting.

Are chimney/stovepipes screened with a collared spark arrestor? You want to make sure the embers from the fire place do not spread.

Is there 10 feet of clearance around propane tank? You do not want direct flame coming in contact with the tank or the supply line to your home.

Are all vents screened? You do not want burning embers from entering the attic or crawl space under the home.

Are all woodpiles/storage more than 10 feet from the structure or covered with a fire rated tarp? Keep fire brands/embers from igniting anything that may burn close to the structure. Is vegetation separated horizontally and vertically? Separating vegetation helps to reduce the spread of fire by disconnecting the fuels. This is often referred to as a "ladder effect" that allows fire to spread through flame lengths from ground fuels and bushes into the tree canopies.

These are just a few of the things we look for during the inspection. If at any time we find something that you can improve on around the home, we stop and go into more detail, as to why we are making a specific recommendations.

We also make note of the access to your home as well as the construction materials that were used to build your home. We will also make notations on a form so you will have the opportunity to look back and refresh your memory about what we talked about during our inspection.

Remember, the key to making your home defensible is being able to cut off the path that the fire will take to get to your home.

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