There are a lot of things that homeowners can do to reduce the likelihood that their homes will be destroyed by wildfire, but almost nothing can stop hot embers from blowing onto roofs and decks. That’s why it is encouraging to see that the construction industry and fire officials are promoting the use of building materials that can withstand the ember storms caused by wildfires.
Those in wildfire-prone areas who are planning to build or renovate their homes should consider fire-resistive construction, such as:
Roofs: Cedar shake and wooden shingles are like kindling and should not be used. The best options are concrete shingles and tiles, clay tiles and slate. Other options are metal roofs and fiber-cement shingles.
Exterior walls: Construct walls with ignition-resistant building materials, such as stucco, fiber cement, corrugated steel siding or fire-retardant, treated wood. Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.
Windows: Metal frame windows are best. If vinyl clad, choose those with metal reinforcements at the tops and sides. Vinyl clad can melt and sag if not reinforced, opening gaps to the inside. Limit the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation. Dual-pane windows are recommended with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breakage. Use metal screens that will not ignite when falling embers strike.
Decks and porches: Decks attached to a home or within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant or non-combustible materials. It is best to enclose the area beneath decks to prevent flammable yard debris from accumulating there. Concrete and stones are best for porches.
Vents: Install flame- and ember-resistive vents to help prevent burning embers from entering the home.
Chimney: Cover the chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-combustible screen. Use metal screen material to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.
Garage: Install weather stripping around and under the garage door to prevent embers from entering.
Other structures: Sheds, fences, awnings, patio furniture, trash cans and welcome mats are often made from flammable materials and should be kept away from the house.
Kevin Fuhriman is Risk Consulting Catastrophe Manager, Chubb Personal Risk Services.