While the height of the California fire season is typically just beginning in September, the state’s four-year drought has already contributed to more than 5,000 wildfires so far in 2016. If history is a reliable indicator, the fire season will continue through the next several months. Take action now to protect your home and to help make the jobs of firefighters safer by following these guidelines:
Keep the area around your home clear: One of the most important steps you can take to improve the chances that your home will remain intact during a fire is to keep a 100 foot defensive space around it. This means removing debris and items such as dead plants, weeds and dry grass that are in this proximity to your home. In terms of landscaping, it’s best to place smaller rather than larger plants closer to your home’s structure, and avoid vegetation such as dense bushes and cedars in this area. Additionally, be sure that plants on your property are watered regularly and pruned. For more tips on maintaining a defensible space, visit http://bit.ly/CALFIREPrepareforWildfire.
Make upgrading your roof a high priority: The roof is an area of your home that is highly susceptible to fire, so replacing an outdated roof and siding with non-combustible materials is crucial for those with older homes. Roofs that can best withstand the threat of flames are Class A-rated and made from tile and steel. What should be avoided: wood or shake shingles which are highly combustible. Fire resistant choices for siding include materials such as cement and stucco rather than wood and composite wood products, vinyl and plastics. If it’s not possible to replace combustible siding, at least inspect it for gaps every year, and take care to fill any that you may find with caulk.
Install dual-paned windows with tempered glass: When it comes to protecting your home from a blaze, your windows are a top priority to address. Dual-paned glass is the preferred choice. Not only are double-paned windows a more effective buffer against noise and seasonal temperatures, but the outer layer of glass also provides protection from fire damage. With this additional layer, the inside panel heats more slowly and evenly, and is therefore less likely to break. Tempered glass, which has been treated by heat or chemicals to increase its strength, is also helpful in protecting your home during a fire. Even if the tempered glass does rupture, it will break into small circular pieces rather than sharp, jagged shards.
Check your vents: As easy places for embers and fire to enter, vents should also not be overlooked when it comes to areas of your home to focus your fire protection efforts. Take care to check them regularly and clear them of debris buildup such as dry leaves, pine needles and other combustible materials. For added safety, it’s also a good idea to create coverings for your vents out of metal mesh that can be quickly used if a fire gets close to your home. To properly screen your home’s eaves and cornices, you’ll need to use baffles.
Test your smoke alarm: It may seem obvious, but plenty of us neglect this critical step. Remember that about two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes without functional fire alarms, and that most fatal fires occur at night. Every room in your home should have a working fire alarm. Every month or so, check your alarms by holding down the test button.