The Perfect Fire Storm
The 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season to date in California. Consider these figures:
8,527 fires burned an area covering 1,893,913 acres
$3.5 billion in damages, including $1.79 billion in fire control costs
The Mendocino Complex Fire, which was a complex of 2 wildfires (the River Fire and Ranch Fire) became California’s largest complex fire. The 2 fires alone destroyed 280 structures and damaged 37 others.
Damages amounted to at least $267 million. This includes $56 million in insured property and $201 million in fire suppression costs.
The Camp Fire that occurred in November 2018 was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. It destroyed more than 18,000 structures and claimed the lives of at least 86 people.
What contributed to the fires?
It does not take much, just a spark. It could be triggered by nature in the form of a lighting strike. However, a carelessly tossed cigarette butt, a downed powerline, even a tire suddenly bursting and going flat can be a start of a deadly fire.
From this spark, a catastrophic wildfire can start once combined with natural fuel such as dried leaves, dead trees and brush, heat and oxygen.
The 2018 wildfires of California were a classic example of all elements conspiring together to create a “perfect fire storm”.
There was an increased amount of natural fuel because of the hot, dry weather that California was experiencing. There was far less precipitation with temperatures above average.
This means there was more dried leaves, grass and brush and dead trees that contributed to the spread of the fire. Added to these conditions were the hot, dry winds known as the Santa Anas in Southern California, and Diablos in Northern California, that whipped up roaring fires across the state.
Experts say that there is an emerging pattern when it comes to wildfires in California. There is no more typical wildfire season. It may already be a year round occurence and there is now a need to re-examine where homes are built, and how they are built in areas vulnerable to wildfires.
Fortifying Your Home Against Wildfires
If you live in an area susceptible to wildfires, can you do anything to give your home a chance to survive?
While no house can ever be fireproof, here are things you can do to “harden” your home to make it less vulnerable and reduce fire damage risk.
Fortify Your Roof
When it comes to wildfires, your roof is perhaps one of the most vulnerable parts of your home. Flying embers coming from a nearby wildfire can land on your roof and ignite a fire that can quickly envelop you home.
If you are thinking of changing your roof, consider installing one made of non combustible materials including asphalt shingles, tile, slate or even metal.
To give your home an extra layer of protection, consider laying down a fireproof underlayment so that even if your roof burns, there is another barrier between the flames and your attic. Taking this extra precaution can greatly reduce fire damage risk.
If a roofing replacement is not possible at the moment and you have a wooden roof, you can make yourself less vulnerable by treating your roof with a fire retardant. Or you can install a rooftop sprinkler system that will keep your roof sufficiently wet to resist burning.
Speaking of roofs, make sure that gutters are always free from leaves and other combustible materials. If you’re remodeling, keep rain gutters clean by screening or enclosing them to prevent accumulation of plant debris.
Mind the Eaves and Soffits
If you are doing a re-roofing, you may want to close off under-eave and soffit vents and install bigger dormer vents. Or you can protect eaves and soffits by using non-combustible materials.
Keep Embers Out
Vents in the house are necessary for circulating air through the attic and small crawl spaces. However, it is also through vents and small openings that embers can get into your home to burn it from the inside out. You can take certain precautions to prevent embers from easily getting inside your home.
Here are our suggestions for how you can do this:
Use a ⅛ to ¼ inch metal mesh to cover all vent openings. We put emphasis on metal as fiberglass or plastic mesh can melt and burn.
If you have installed a doggy door, check that it is seals properly. As an extra precaution, it is better to keep it closed during the fire season.
Don’t Forget the Windows
Windows are the weakest link in your home. Radiant heat generated by a wildfire is intense and can cause your windows to break - even before your home gets engulfed with fire. This makes your home extra vulnerable by allowing embers to get into your home and igniting it from the inside.
Here are our suggestions on how you can fortify your windows against fires:
Give your home an extra layer of protection by installing tempered glass. They do cost more but they can withstand temperatures of up to 470 º F.
If you cannot do all tempered glass, consider double paned windows with one pane of tempered glass that will help reduce the chance of breakage in case of a fire.
Avoid windows framed in wood or vinyl which burn easily. Instead, go with aluminum, steel or fiberglass when looking at materials for your window panes.
Make Your Walls Ignition Resistant
If your home is in an area prone to wildfires, wood products such as shingles, panels or boards used for siding material are not recommended. Here’s our suggestions to protect against fires and reduce fire damage risk:
Use stucco, fiber cement, wall siding, fire retardant and treated wood or aluminum siding that look like wood
To give maximum protection, ensure that these types of wall materials are installed from the foundation to the roof.
Protect Your Garage
Be prepared for any fire by having a fire extinguisher as well as other tools like a shovel, rake, bucket and hoe.
Keep embers from blowing in through your garage by installing weather stripping around the garage door.
As an added safety precaution, make sure that all combustible and flammable liquids are stored as far away as possible from any source of ignition.
Manage Your Yard
Sometimes, something as simple as a regular yard maintenance can help make your home less vulnerable to wildfires. Ensure that there are no combustible materials lying around the yard that can hinder you from getting out of your property or that can make it more difficult for firefighters to get to your home if needed.
If you are thinking of landscaping, use foliage with high water content that are less susceptible to flames. The NFPA recommends using gravel or stone mulch products instead of organic mulch that can easily catch fire. You should also stay away from plants that contain oils or resins (junipers or pine) if you live in a fire prone area.
You should also create a defensible perimeter around the house and it should be free of fire fuel like dead trees or shrubs, dried leaf litter, pine needles or fallen twigs or branches.
Let Us Help
The suggestions given above can help your home be less vulnerable to wildfires and reduce fire damage risk. However, when faced with the force of nature, there is little we can do in the moment but keep our families safe.
If you have experienced fire damage in your home, let our experts at FIVE STAR RESTORATION help. We are an experienced restoration company.
When you need someone who can remove, contain, and clean quickly and safely, we are the company to call. We have specialty equipment and the know-how to restore your home in as stress-free a manner as possible.
Fire and the ensuing fire and smoke damage, and water damage is distressing. FIVE STAR RESTORATION can help you get back to normal as painlessly as possible.
Call for 24/7 Service Now
Reach out to us at 951-368-2227.
Tags: Protect Your Home From Wildfires, wildfire causes, wildfire season