IBHS Offers Wildfire Protection Tips

Photo: usatoday.comPhoto: usatoday.com

Wildfires are continuing to spread out West, and one fire in particular is causing a great deal of damage.

The Silver Fire in Southern California is spreading rapidly, and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is urging residents to help prepare homes and surrounding landscapes to be ready for such intense fires.

According to Dr. Steve Quarles, IBHS senior scientist and wildfire expert, the best way for someone to protect a home is to create a ‘defensible space on their property.’

The Silver Fire alone has burned more than 14,000 acres and damaged or destroyed at least 27 structures. Approximately 1,800 residents have evacuated the area.

Creating a Defensible Space:

 Zone 1: The area adjacent to a home (0-5 feet)

  • The objective of this zone is to reduce the chance that wind-blown embers landing near the building, igniting materials and exposing the home to flames. 
  • Select and install products such as rock or gravel mulches in this area, or noncombustible hardscape features such as brick or concrete walkways.
  • Do not store firewood and other combustible materials (e.g., lumber) in this zone.
  • Choose low growing, non-woody, herbaceous plant materials, and maintain them.

Zone 2: The area from 5 to 30 feet from a home or the property line

  • The objective of this zone is to create a landscape that will not readily transmit fire to the home. The vegetation in this area should be arranged in islands, or well-spaced groupings. Ladder fuels should be removed. In order to minimize the amount of radiant heat that could impact the building, outbuildings (e.g., tool sheds, play structures) should not be located in this zone.
  • This area requires the most thinning and horizontal separation between trees and other vegetation groupings, and removal items that could result in a very intense fire close to your home. The objective of thinning and separation is to reduce the chance that ignited vegetation will provide a direct path for fire to burn to the home.
  • Boats, trailers, and other combustible structures should not be located or stored in this zone.
  • Summary of steps to improve defensible space in Zones 1 and 2
  • Prune branches that hang over your home so that they are at least 10 feet away.
  • Remember the importance of the 0 to 5 foot “noncombustible zone” and remove combustible vegetation and other combustible materials in the area immediately adjacent to your home and under the entire foot print of your attached deck. If ignited, vegetation in this zone will expose the side of your house and under-eave area to flames.
  • Limb up trees and remove dead material from all vegetation on your property.
  • Although not strictly a defensible space issue, it is also important to remove vegetative debris (e.g., pine needles) from your gutters and roof on a regular basis.

Zone 3: The are from 30 to 100 feet from a home or to the property line

  • The objective if vegetation management in this zone is to reduce the energy and speed of the wildfire. Trees and brush spacing should force the fire in the tops of the tree, brush or shrub crowns to drop to the ground. Flame lengths should decrease.
  • Remove dead plant materials and tree branches.
  • Ladder fuels are those that allow fire to climb into the upper portion of the tree. Eliminate ladder fuels.
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