Fire Safety Strategies for Homeowners in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) AreaMay 02, 2023
When residing in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) area, you as a homeowner know that fire safety is of paramount importance. While other homeowners in other parts of the country might worry about protecting their homes from storms, floods, or mold, you have the risk of fire is a very real and present threat. Astoundingly, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 60,000 communities in America are at risk for WUI fires due to their location. Of course, not surprisingly to you as a resident, California is the state with the greatest number of houses in WUI areas.
What is Wildland Urban Interface?
Before moving deeper into the topic of protecting your home from fire it is important to understand the unique risk that living in a WUI area involves. A WUI is defined as a transition zone between human development and land that is undeveloped. It is an area where development often intermingles with vegetative or wildland fuel due to it being undeveloped in these areas. As one might imagine, when you combine these factors with the dry season and other issues that can spark fires, it is easy to see how the problem can escalate and put many, many homes and individuals at risk. Thankfully, you are not without options when it comes to making your home safer, even if you reside in a WUI area. Though you might not be able to mitigate the risk entirely, you can do a lot to reduce your risk of complete and utter loss by following specific fire safety strategies.
Safety Measures You Can Take as a Homeowner to Protect Your Home
Thankfully, Cal Fire has compiled a list of helpful tips you can implement to make your home safer. You should consider completing these especially if your home is situated within a WUI area. The following are just a few steps to get you headed in the right direction:
Create a Defensible Space
The term defensible space assumes there will be someone there to defend your home. Homeowners need to understand that fire professionals can only defend a small number of homes. Preparation IS the emergency. You want to begin the process of making your home safe well before you enter wildfire season. The defensible scape area also referred to as the home ignition zone, is designed to halt or at least slow the progress of fire that would otherwise overtake your property. It is also necessary to give firefighters who may be defending your home against the threat of fire adequate room to work safely. The home ignition zone starts at the top of your roof and extends out at least 100 feet, and is divided into three zones; starting at your home and the surrounding five feet. Zone two is five to thirty feet, and zone three is thirty to one hundred feet. Start your home, then work out 100 feet in a big circle around your home to create this defensible space. Removing excess fuels from the Home ignition zone is the first step to becoming more fire resilient.
Implement Home Hardening Strategies
Building codes were changed in 2010 to include products and methods of construction that were designed to make homes better able to withstand exposure to wildfires. If your home was built before these changes, you may be at higher risk of exposure, and also your insurance ratings will be impacted. There are several low-cost methods of upgrading to the current standards. One major change that was made was to the vents that let your attic and foundation breathe. The old standard was a ¼” mesh screen, which will allow burning embers to enter these areas and can then ignite flammable materials that are within. Changing to a smaller 1/8” screen will help, but better still is to use WUI-approved vent products like Vulcan Vents, which keep both embers and direct flames out. Vulcan vents are designed to swell shut at about 450 degrees, keeping both embers and flames from entry. We also recommend these additional products and strategies to further harden your home:
Class A Fire-Rated Roofing
Hardening your home starts at its very top with the roof shingles you choose for your home. Owens Corning shingles have a Class A Fire Rating. This is the highest rating you can get on a residential roofing shingle. Choosing from the variety of options with that Class A rating means that you are protecting your home from the moment you have those shingles installed. In order to be awarded this impressive Class A rating, a shingle has to prevent fire from penetrating through your home’s roofing assembly into the attic underneath. So, this explains why having such a rating is vastly important to your home’s overall ability to withstand the dangers of a nearby wildfire. It’s also a good idea to use fire-resistant vents as well.
Yes, we are mentioning it again, because it is that important! You must create your defensible area through land clearing. Removing excess fuels is imperative in keeping your home safe. Make sure that you have this professionally done in order to ensure that your home is protected as much as possible from the dangers of encroaching fires. Land clearing also means keeping your home clear of debris, making sure there are no plants located right up next to your home, and that trees do not hang onto your home’s roof.
LeafGuard Rain Gutters
Finally, to adequately protect your home from the very real threat of fire, have LeafGuard Rain Gutters installed. Make sure that they are CA Code Gutters R337.5.4 This means that they are designed to prevent the accumulation of leaves and debris within the gutters themselves and are fire-resistant. While you might not assume there is a correlation between your gutters and your home’s overall risk of fire, this could not be further from the truth. There is a very real connection between gutters full of dry debris and your home’s likelihood of being destroyed by fire. Therefore, it’s important that your gutters be designed to limit accumulation and prevent the danger of fire.
Additional Tips for Keeping Your Home and Family Safe
Make sure you implement all the home improvement strategies above to keep your home as safe as possible throughout the wildfire season. Also, put a plan in place for your family, ensuring you all know where to go should the worst happen and you have to evacuate. Make sure you have an emergency kit made up and talk with young children about the dangers associated with fire. Keep emergency contact numbers somewhere safe, and have a plan in place that your entire family knows. In conclusion, when implementing the above hardening strategies, especially when doing them all, you will know you have done all you can to protect your property even if you have to evacuate.