Home ownership is exciting. But with it comes many responsibilities—especially when you live in an area prone to wildfires. So, one of the most important things you can do as a homeowner is to reduce your home's vulnerability to wildfire ignition.
If you're a new homeowner or plan on building a house, utilize these recommendations to keep your home fire-free. If your house has been your home for years, don't fret! Think of these recommendations as annual upgrades or as a renovation project—there's no need to rebuild your house completely. Pay attention to the following tips to maintain your home's safety, and begin to plan for and budget for major renovations.
Here's what you can do to protect your home:
If the lifespan of your existing roof is coming to its end, take the following recommendations into consideration. In the meantime, continue to be diligent about keeping gutters clean and clear of debris, and make sure that leaves and needles are regularly removed from the roof.
Replacing a flammable roof or the siding of an existing structure is usually the most expensive and overwhelming component of a retrofit.
Homes without fire-resistant roofs are up to 21 times more likely to be destroyed by wildfire. Though no building material is completely fireproof, using fire-rated materials and approved structural assemblies can significantly reduce the time it takes a fire to ignite a roof and spread into the underlying structure.
Roofing materials are rated for flammability and categorized as Class A, B, or C or unrated.
- Class A roofs can withstand severe exposure to fire and should be the choice for anyone living in wildland and urban interface areas. Materials include asphalt fiberglass composition shingles, concrete or clay tiles, brick, slate, fiber-cement products, and metal.
- Class B roofs can withstand a moderate exposure to fire and include fire retardant pressure-treated shakes and shingles.
- Class C roofs can withstand light exposure to fire and include plywood and particleboard.
- Unrated roofs, such as non-fire-retardant treated wood shakes or shingles, are the most vulnerable materials.
Some materials have a "by assembly" fire rating, meaning that additional materials must be used between the roof covering and the roof sheathing to attain that fire rating. Examples of roof coverings with a "by assembly" fire rating include aluminum, some fire-retardant wood shake products, and recycled plastic and rubber products.
Determine your current roof's flammability rating and replace existing roofs once they have reached the end of their service life with one with a suitable flammability rating for your area. If you want to confirm your roof type, schedule a professional roof inspection.
Once your roof is up to date, be sure to keep up on annual maintenance by removing all combustible materials from roofs and gutters, as well as under decks, stairways, and overhangs. This will help prevent heat from getting trapped and embers from entering these areas.
Exposure to the heat of a wildfire can cause glass on exterior walls to fracture and collapse, allowing firebrands to enter structures. Choose double-paned windows made with tempered glass when installing or replacing windows – they are the most fire-resistant. Embers can burn through plastic screens and should be replaced with metal screening to prevent embers from entering your home. In the case of an emergency evacuation, you should relocate drapes and other flammable materials away from the windows.
Early fall is a critical time for wildfires starting from the chimney sparks. Make sure chimneys have approved spark arresters and are inspected and cleaned at least once a year. It is also a good idea to keep a supply of a chimney fire extinguishing product on hand to extinguish chimney fires.
Decks and Siding.
Ideally, decks and siding should be made of fire-resistant materials. Siding and decking materials that resist heat and flames include cement, plaster, stucco, masonry (such as stone brick or blocks), and fiber-cement products.
If your home is sided with a combustible material like wood, you will want to be extra vigilant about finding and repairing any openings could allow harbor to enter the substructure.
And keep in mind, your lawn and patio furniture are fuel. Flammable outdoor items, such as wicker or wooden patio furniture, cushions, doormats, window boxes and planters, garbage cans without lids, and BBQ propane tanks are all places where embers can land and start a fire. Designate an enclosed storage area to store these items when you are away from home or a wildfire threatens.
Idaho Firewise is a non-profit organization that develops and promotes statewide wildfire education for those who live in or visit Idaho. To learn more about wildfire prevention and protection, visit www.idahofirewise.org.