How to fire proof your home

Homes of every kind are increasingly encroaching on natural vegetation. As a result, wildfires are wreaking havoc on private property, threatening lives, destroying homes and costing taxpayers millions to extinguish.

Proper preparation can effectively make the difference between a saved home or a pile of embers during a wildfire. As the world leaders in Integrated Fire Management (IFM), Kishugu’s core business is studying and understanding fires.

When temperatures reach upwards of 2 000° C, a wildfire can generate its own wind as it grows in size and burns more intensely. Once that happens, there is very little that will be spared in a wildfire’s path of destruction. There is not much you can do to predict when a fire will happen or the course it will take, but you can work to prepare your home and keep it safe from severe wildfire damage by implementing a few steps.

Step 1: Ignition Resistant Roofs 

Roofs are often the most vulnerable part of a house in a fire. Typically, homes burn because the roof catches fire, so the best precaution you can take in a fire-prone area is to make your roof fire-resistant. Roof materials are rated from A to C for resistance to fire, with A being the most resistant. Install a class-A roof if you can. The cost difference is so little that a B- or C-class roof does not make sense. Class-A roofs make for safe communities. And do not let “fuel loads” or dead leaves accumulate on your roof, in gutters and vents, or under decks.

Step 2: Upgrade your windows and  drapes

Radiant heat from the fire can shatter glass or ignite combustibles on its own, without the flames actually reaching your house. Windows are exceptionally vulnerable, as the intense heat can go right through them, leading to drapes and furniture catching on fire. Smaller tempered units are more stable than large windows. The easy solution is replacing the window material with a more heat-resistant product. The best choice is installing non-combustible shutters which can be quickly closed in an emergency. Another choice is double glazing your windows, with tempered glass on the exterior.

Step 3: Location, location, location

Select a fire-resistant site when buying or building a house. Placing a house in a thick stand of trees is asking for trouble. So is setting a home on a hilltop where it becomes a clear target for a moving fire. All too often people design their dream homes without regard for the hazards of oncoming fires. A few simple steps can make all the difference in protecting homes from an out-of-control wildfire.

Step 4: Site Layout

The first strategy is to get at least 30 metres of distance and incombustible material between you and the wildlands using patios, driveways, or low-growing fire-retardant plants. When you lay out your site, invest in driveways and turn-arounds that are wide enough to make it easy for firefighters to bring their heavy equipment in close to your home.

 Step 5: Deny fire all entry points

Carry out regular, common-sense maintenance checks around your home. Remove dead and decaying wood, and fallen and dead branches. Clear all fuel material debris from around the base of trees. You should also prune away tree branches that overhang the house.

Step 6: Ember-Resistant Exterior

Insurance investigations have found that most homes catch fire from flying embers. Eaves and vent openings are a perfect place for embers to fly into and set your home on fire from the inside. Making sure they are properly screened and maintained may seem like a little detail, but it is often the first place embers can enter a house in a wildfire. Even keeping gutters clean can help protect your home’s vulnerable eaves. A home built using these simple precautions not only has a better chance of surviving a wildfire, but imposes much less financial burden on government and provides much greater safety for the lives of the people who live in it and the firefighters trying to protect it.

  AUTHOR
Bombi Mavundza

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