(BPT) – Peak wildfire season is here, and despite the cooler weather of fall, this is historically the time of year western states experience their most destructive wildfires.
That means now is the critical time to prepare your home before a wildfire strikes. Using over a decade of wildfire research, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has developed science-backed guidance for homeowners to meaningfully reduce their home’s risk of ignition.
“There are actions you can take this weekend to get started,” explained IBHS Lead Research Engineer Faraz Hedayati. “Investing the time now to prepare gives your home a better chance of surviving if wildfire enters your neighborhood.”
A nonprofit that studies ways to harden homes to reduce damage caused by natural disasters, including wildfires, IBHS has identified three key vulnerable areas of a property to be addressed and offers tips for homeowners to take in its Wildfire Ready guide:
1. Ensure you have a Class A fire-rated roof cover
Embers can easily land and collect on the roof, making it important to ensure your roof is fire resistant. Roofs are rated Class A to C based on their fire resistance, with most homes already having a Class A roof that provides the most protection from fire. If your roof is unrated, or if you are considering replacing your roof, re-roof with a Class A-rated roofing material and regularly remove debris from the roof and gutters.
2. Create a ‘Zone 0’ buffer around your home
During a wildfire, embers can travel miles ahead of a fire front. Laboratory experiments and post-fire investigations indicate that embers are likely to land and accumulate in the first five feet around homes. Ensure that the five-foot perimeter surrounding the home, Zone 0, does not contain combustible materials that could serve as a susceptible fuel bed for ember ignition, the leading cause of home ignitions from wildfire. After you create a noncombustible Zone 0 around your home, be sure to continually remove debris to maintain it and reduce your home’s ignition risk.
To develop a buffer around your home:
- Use hardscapes like gravel, pavers, concrete and other noncombustible mulch materials in the five-foot zone around your home. Remove all vegetation and trim back branches that overhang the five-foot area.
- Replace the first five feet of non-combustible fencing in Zone 0, which can act like a wick and bring fire straight to your home, with non-combustible fencing to reduce the home’s chance of ignition.
- Store firewood, outdoor furniture, trash cans, pet houses, lawn tools and children’s playsets outside the zone, and remove boats, RVs or other vehicles from the buffer area.
- Clear and maintain attached decks or covered porches. Remove combustible furniture, including wood or plastic furniture, as well as large combustible rugs and planters. Don’t store items under an attached deck or porch and remove all vegetation — including grass or weeds — from underneath. Enclose the area underneath decks four feet or less from the ground with 1/8-inch or finer metal wire mesh or a noncombustible wall covering around the outer edge.
3. Assess your building features
Building features include openings into the home where flying embers from a wildfire can enter such as vents in your attic, roof, gables or crawlspace. Make sure vents are covered with a 1/8-inch or finer metal screen to block large embers and be sure to check screens periodically to remove accumulated debris like bird nests. Embers also accumulate against the base of exterior walls so ensure there is at least six inches of vertical, noncombustible clearance such as fiber-cement, brick, stone, stucco or exposed concrete foundation.
Take it a step further
These mitigation actions provide a great starting point to increase your home’s wildfire resilience, but there is still more you can do. California homeowners can show they’ve taken science-based actions to reduce their home’s wildfire risk and receive a Wildfire Prepared Home designation that may help with insurance availability and options.
A voluntary program that includes built-in homeowner education and a system of required mitigation actions, Wildfire Prepared Home also includes a verification process and an annual landscape maintenance review so homeowners can have greater confidence they’ve completed the necessary actions.
Homeowners can get started by taking a free online home assessment at WildfirePrepared.org to identify the areas of their home that require further mitigation before applying for a designation.