In the driest year in recorded state history, California is bracing for a devastating wildfire season - one that is starting about five months early, according to Blomberg News ("Early California Wildfires Jeopardize Homes and Vineyards"). In a press-release sent out in late January, the California, Department of Forestry and Fire advised homeowners prepare early, and create a "defensible space" around all structures. (For details on what makes a defensible space, see the Cal Fire press release here.)
Builders, roofers and deck contractors have a huge influence on reducing the risk of a building fire. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) windborne embers present the greatest problem, particularly when they get sucked into roof vents, and caught in corners where dried leaves and other combustible debris collects. At it research center, IBHS conducted full-scale "ember testing" on home mock-ups. The testing is summarized in this youtube video that's well worth watching, and the results have helped IBHS refine its guidance on wildfire-resistant homes (see the page of Wildfire at disastersafety.org)
Beyond the obvious material choices for siding, roofs and decking, there are a number of other key details to consider:
- Protect roof vents: Roof vents are critical entry point for windborne embers. Screening can help, but it'll be vulnerable to clogging over time. This IBHS video sheds light on which vent product are most vulnerable.
- Design can affect how vulnerable a roof will be. The more cut-up it is with dormers and wall-roof intersections, the more likely pine needles and leaf debris sill accumulate.
- Decks, not-so- lovingly referred to as "organized kindling" by firefighters, are especially vulnerable. See "Steps to reduce the risk of wildfire damage." Enclosing elevated and hillside decks is especially important.