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Harden Your Home

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2014-firewise-zones-map

DEFENSIBLE SPACE IS NOT ENOUGH: HARDEN YOUR HOME
Teaching you how to harden your home is the primary focus and goal of The Cascadel Ranch Fire Safe Council.
Second only to emergency preparedness, hardening your home is your single, best, next step to get ready for wildfire.
Why? Because airborne embers or firebrands are the overwhelming cause of home ignitions in the Wildland Urban Interface!
And believe it or not, around half of the homes lost are ignited inside the house from firebrands penetrating!
No matter how clear the home ignition zone, no matter how much defensible space, no matter how prepared the neighborhood, if your home is tinder, embers can, and will, ignite your home in the event of a wildfire in your area.
You can radically reduce the impact of embers simply by hardening your home against wildfire.
It’s easy. Let’s get started.

Step 1: Assess Your Home

To a fire your home is fuel. Change your perspective and start looking at your home as fuel for a fire. Where can a fire take hold? Where is your home most vulnerable?
Remember, if you can deny a fire the conditions necessary for combustion, there can be no fire. In order for combustion to occur you need fuel, oxygen and heat. Remove one, no fire. So assess your home with that in mind, remembering that your home is fuel.
This is a common sense. You start at the top with the roof,  work down. Is your roof flammable or noncombustible? Pine needles? Leaves? Loose or missing shingles exposing the combustible “deck” or underlayment? Is your roof rated? Class A? B? C?
And so on, following with the eaves, walls, down, and outward from the structure.
Click to Download 2015 Initial Home Assessment Worksheet PDF
Click to Download FIREWISE MADERA COUNTY NFPA HOME IGNITION ZONE ASSESSMENT MITIGATION GUIDE PDF
Now watch these videos, preferably all of them.

NFPA HOME IGNITION ZONE STRUCTURE ASSESSMENT GUIDE

Note: The assessment is designed to help determine “how vulnerable the structure” will be during the wildfire and to convey recommendations that should be taken so that the home will have a better chance to survive a wildfire.
Remember, the following assessment items are for prevention/mitigation measures to be done well in advance of wildfire season.

  1. OVERVIEW OF SURROUNDINGS
    1. How is the structure positioned in relationship to severe fire behavior?
    2. Type of Construction?
  2. CHIMNEY TO EAVES
    1. Inspect the roof:
      Noncombustible?
      Shingles missing?
      Shingles flat with no gaps?
      Click for Roof Rating Info
    2. Gutters: Present? Noncombustible?
    3. Litter on roof, in gutters and crevices?
  3. EAVES TO FOUNDATION
    1. Attic, eaves, soffit vents and crawl spaces.
    2. Inspect windows and screens:
      Metal screens? Multi-paned windows?
      Picture windows facing vegetation?
    3. Walls and attachments:
      Noncombustible?
      Will they collect litter?
    4. Decks: Combustible materials?
    5. Fences
    6. Flammable materials next to or under the structure
    7. Crawl space, attic vents, soffits
    8. Nooks and crannies and other small spaces
  4. FOUNDATION TO IMMEDIATE LANDSCAPED AREA
    1. Landscaped (Managed) Vegetation:
      Separation distances, maintenance, plant selection;
      Firewise Landscaping Zones?
    2. Propane Tanks
    3. Vehicle and RV use and parking, including lawn mowers, etc
  5. IMMEDIATE LANDSCAPED AREA TO EXTENT OF THE HOME IGNITION ZONE
    1. Inspect vegetation clearance and crown separation.

Click to Download FIREWISE MADERA COUNTY NFPA HOME IGNITION ZONE ASSESSMENT MITIGATION GUIDE PDF
Once you’ve assessed your home, take action to harden your home.

Step 2: Take Action

  • Routinely remove debris from your roof
  • Routinely check gutters for debris & remove the debris
  • Never stack firewood near your home
  • Remove flammables from under decks
  • Keep decks clear of flammables
  • Move patio furniture & cushions away from your home
  • Close all openings that may allow embers to enter your attic and home
  • Replace combustible roofing with noncombustible rated roofing
  • Repair broken shingles
  • Replace vents with ember resistant vents
  • Replace plastic or other combustible gutters with metal gutters that can’t burn
  • Enclose and box in your eaves (known as a “soffit”)
  • Replace vinyl window screens with metal screens
  • Replace older outdated non-reinforced vinyl windows
  • Replace single pane glass with dual pane glass preferably tempered
  • Replace combustible siding with non-combustible siding
  • Remove combustible materials from direct contact with your home
  • Create 3 to 5 feet of non-combustible ground completely around your home & structures

Download the guides below for checklists and info. Print them out and follow the instructions.
Click to Download 2015 Home Assessment Worksheet PDF
Click to Download the Cal Fire Harden Your Home Brochure PDF
Click for more Firewise Homeowners Tips at Firewise.org

Hardening Your Home & Home Ignition Zone against Wildfire

Hardening your home encompasses three zones within the home ignition zone. Your home itself, your yard or property immediately surrounding your home, out from there. Access to and from your home is also part of the overall picture. Taking simple, easy, and many times small steps to make your home less of a fuel for fire may save your home. It’s the little things that make all the difference.

You Are the Only One Authorized to Harden Your Home

The only one authorized to radically increase the odds of saving your home in the event of wildfire is you. The Cascadel Ranch Fire Safe Council believes you cannot stress this enough. Personal responsibility is key. Not only your responsibility to you and yours, but to your neighbors and the general public.
Defensible space is highly desirable for the safety of firefighters, but if you really want to save your home, harden your home against wildfire, extremely if possible. Even without fire personnel present, a properly hardened home may survive a wildfire. The other benefits such as potentially reduced loan rates and lower insurance costs are the icing on the cake.
Only you can harden your home. Hardening your home must happen well before any wildfire event. This work will pay off by making your home less prone to ignition by embers or firebrands, and less prone to burn once ignited.

What Is the Home Ignition Zone?

The HIZ is Large: Your Neighbors may need to be Involved
With your home at its center, moving outward, you address your entire Home Ignition Zone. Start by addressing and mitigating your actual structure as outlined above. Work outwards from there. Altogether, you will address three primary “zones” of defensible space. These three zones together make up your home ignition zone.
The home ignition zone is generally not more than 200 feet in radius. If you aim for 200 feet you’ll be doing great. The center of the home ignition zone is at the center of your home, moving out from there.
If you have a large parcel, you can control and mitigate all of the zones. If you do not, you must involve your neighbors to properly harden your home ignition zone.

Using the Zone Concept

  • Zone 1: The Structure Ignition Zone: Your home and the immediate 3 to 5 feet around its periphery, out to 30 feet.
  • Zone 2: The Firebreak Zone: The area from thirty feet to one hundred feet around your home.
  • Zone 3: The Reduced Fuel Zone: 100 to 200 feet from your home or structure.

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The Home Ignition Zone

For higher density subdivisions your neighbor’s home and yard will likely overlap your home ignition zone.

Zone 1: Structure Ignition Zone

Home Exterior

For the exterior of your home’s structure, these are your primary concerns:

  • Roofing
  • Eaves
  • Vents
  • Siding
  • Windows
  • Attached Decks
  • Patios
  • Garage

Moving from the structure outwards:

  • Landscaping immediately around the structure
  • Your Yard
  • Any Fencing Close to Your Home

Home Interior

The interior of your home is largely outside the scope of most all fire wise discussions. But even your home interior should be considered. Embers can penetrate through faulty vents, melted vinyl screens with open or broken insufficient windows, igniting your home from the inside.
The fewer possessions and building materials that can become fuel for a fire the better. Be aware of fire regarding your home interior when considering improvements or remodeling. Look over your home interior for glaring fire hazards. Make sure you have an up to date appropriate fire extinguisher or several extinguishers within easy reach where needed.

Ingress Egress: Getting to and from Your Home

Ingress and egress to your home is also a very critical consideration. Narrow, dangerous, poorly maintained roads, locked gates, heavily vegetated roads, single lane driveways, all of these issues play into wildfire preparedness.
Without sufficient emergency personnel access your home cannot be defended. Evacuation can be complicated in certain situations without adequate access such as occurred in the Oakland fire. Last minute evacuations for those who wait too long to go even more so.
The interior, exterior, and access to your home all are factors that need to be addressed to harden your home to a high degree or extremely well.

Home Access

Let’s talk a little more about access to your home. This is also known as “ingress” and “egress”. The importance of ingress egress access cannot be overstated. Not only is access to your property mandatory in order to enjoy your property, you can’t evacuate at a moment’s notice if your access is inadequate or impeded. Without sufficient ingress egress emergency personnel cannot easily access your property.
This is why building codes have been getting more and more stringent over the years. Not just regarding building materials, but access to the property as well.
In California, the 1990 Oakland Fire tragedy was a big motivation behind Public Resources Code 4290 regarding ingress & egress to new construction. This code, and 4291 regarding structure clearance, were intended to bring Californians safer and better emergency access and protection. PRC 4290 set standards for roads that allow for all weather, all season, access to homes, with freely circulating traffic possible at all times.

Protect Your Home & Public Resources

Your properly accessible and prepared firewise home ignition zone will help to keep fire to a minimum and possibly save your home.
Not be overlooked though, is the fact that fires can start in a home and move to the surrounding area and other homes. These fires can then spread to public and private property becoming a wildfire.
Properly hardened and accessible homes can potentially prevent a small disaster turning into a big one. A hardened home ignition zone is a lot less likely to spread a fire to other homes or the forest surrounding the area.
So hardening your home is not only great for you and yours, but a great civic responsibility as well. Hardening your home benefits the general public too and is part of our responsibility as good citizens.