Here’s What You Can Do About It
CNBC published a report a few years ago on their website that was cited in numerous articles about the California wildfires that ravaged the state in 2018. People didn’t believe what they read: Just two of the California wildfires destroyed 14,000 homes.
Wildfire damage to commercial and residential property in California in 2018 totaled $19 billion dollars.
Yes, that’s shocking news, but the destruction caused by wildfires in California appears to be getting worse. In 2020, the August Fire Complex blazed through six northern California Counties and burned 1,032, 648 acres – an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. And last year the situation was equally disheartening as 8,619 fires exploded across the state—killing thousands of the state’s giant sequoias and destroying over 3500 structures.
It raises troubling concerns about the reliability of our homes and lingering questions about our personal safety: How much damage will be wrought during this year’s fire season? What about in 2023 and beyond?
The New Reality
The fact is that climate change, and the increased likelihood of extended droughts, are a reality in California. Along with it comes an increase in wildfires. We have to be mindful, think ahead and build smarter.
SIDCO took these experiences into account when developing their homes. Their patented ECO Smart panels are developed to meet the most stringent fire-resistance standards. They replaced the use of oriented strand board (OSB) and plywood with energy-saving, fire-resistant materials.
Ways to Safeguard Your Current Home
There are steps you can take to safeguard your home against fire. These are the things to be aware of and take precautions against.
In a wildfire situation, many homes fall victim to embers as opposed to a wall of flame. Embers from a wildfire have been observed to travel as far as seven miles. So even if the fire is a distance away, you have to be concerned. When these embers do come to rest, depending on the fuel they land on, they could smolder unnoticed for hours before erupting.
Beware of Embers
Many fires start from embers traveling at ground level. A concrete or stone wall around your property acts as a barrier, preventing them from reaching your home. Other fires start from embers entering from the outside through vents. The most recent California laws require mesh screens to be placed over these vents to prevent such incidents. Pests and rodents, however, can damage these screens. You should periodically check to make sure these screens are intact.
Here are other safety steps to improve fire (ember) safety:
- Embers can get in under the garage door and start a fire in your garage, which can go undetected until it is out of control. To avoid this, outfit your garage door with a heavy-duty rubber seal where it meets the concrete floor. Check this seal routinely to make sure it remains intact.
- If there is a fire in the area, soak some old towels, roll them up and place them at the base of the garage door, or any other door that offers access to the house or garage and has a less than perfect seal.
- Have a defensible area around your home. This is a zone free of shrubs, grass, or debris. Large trees should not be near the home. Think in terms of a five-foot walkway of pea gravel all the way around your house.
- Propane tanks should be a distance from the home and similarly protected.
Fire Resistant is Not Fireproof
Homes can be built to the most stringent fire-resistant codes in the U.S., and they can still burn. There is a difference between fire-resistant and fireproof. Very few things are fireproof.
Even if we can reverse the effects of climate change, drought conditions will be with us, especially in California, for quite some time. Homebuilders and homeowners should consider it the new normal. Finally, play it safe, and don’t be a hero. Wildfires can travel in a flash. If there is an evacuation order, the sensible thing is to obey it. Your home is insured.