The NFPA has started a series of how-to blog posts on hardening your home that gives residents an idea of the dangers first responders and other experts see when looking at the home ignition zone. This installment discusses the combustibility of porches and decks, and the risk of a porch trapping embers and creating an ignition potential.
Here are their recommendations to keep that from happening:
To address the issue of porches and decks trapping embers, residents can do several things. First, they should be sure to do general housekeeping. Limit or remove furniture, flowerpots, and other items often left on decks and porches. Swirling wind currents during a fire can cause embers to get trapped in and around these items, creating an ignition potential. These items also can be combustible themselves, which can pose further risk. For example, foam padding in deck furniture can generate tremendous heat when ignited. If a wildfire is encroaching, keep porches and decks as bare as possible, and be sure to move any furnishings indoors.
Be aware that the construction of the porch or deck can also trap embers. Be sure that openings below these structures are screened in per NFPA 1144 or local codes. Eliminate points of ember accumulation by boxing them in or changing out railings. Bottom line, don’t tolerate small corners or nooks and crannies where embers can accumulate.
Finally, lots of people like to store firewood both on and under decks and porches. This is a major hazard for the home and for fire crews. Firewood is dry, has plenty of surface area, and represents a tremendous concentration of potential heat energy if ignited. A firewood stack is also an ideal place for embers to accumulate. So please, please, please don’t store firewood on or under porches and decks, and keep it well clear of all structures. At least 30 feet from any structure is what is generally recommended.