With all the bush fires happening recently in Australia, it is more important than ever to safeguard your home from fire. But where does one go for advice on how to do this? With decades of experience in fighting forest fires in California, who better to turn to than Cal Fire, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Here are six tips from Cal Fire for anyone living in a fire-prone area to help your home withstand a fire event:
1. Harden Your Home
In a major bush fire, hot embers can fly for miles, landing hot on shingles and into cracks and crevices under eaves and siding. To safeguard against flying embers, Cal Fire recommends several upgrades for “hardening” your home to make it more fire-resistant:
–Replace shake or asphalt shingles, which are combustible, with tile shingles or metal roofing, which do not catch fire.
–Seal cracks and crevices with silicone caulk to prevent embers from getting under siding and eaves.
–Cover all vents with small gauge mesh to keep out most flying embers. Window screening can work well for this in a pinch.
–Cover combustible wood siding on the exterior walls with ignition resistant materials, such as stucco, brick or fire-resistant metal or fibre cement siding.
–Manage leaves and debris. Throughout the warm season, sweep or flush your roof and gutters to get rid of leaves, moss and debris, all of which can catch fire when hot embers land on them.
2. Replace Your Windows
During a bush fire, temperatures can be hot enough to rupture glass. When this happens to single-pane windows, gaps are created which let in floating embers, catching the area around the window on fire. To help prevent this from happening, replace single-pane windows with double pane. Although the outside panes may rupture from the heat of a passing bush fire, they will protect the inside panes long enough to prevent rupturing.
3. Properly Landscape your home and garden.
There is a common myth among homeowners that green plants are fire resistant and safe to install immediately next to the house. However, during a bush fire, heat from the fire dehydrates plants, making them susceptible to the passing fire. Any plants near your home which catch fire are at risk of spreading the fire to your house. To prevent this from happening, do the following:
Keep Zone 1 Completely Clear
Zone 1 is the closest zone to your home and should be completely free from plants, including flowers, and completely free from household items of any kind. Remove weeds or grass and lay down gravel or concrete around the perimeter. Maintain this zone frequently during the warm season to keep debris away.
Create a Zone 2 Defensible Space
After Zone 1 is completely cleared, next focus on your yard and garage. Give the garage its own Zone 1 treatment, and then designate the yard and garden as Zone 2. In this zone, either remove the lawn and install gravel or concrete, or plant only a low lawn or low growing, fire-resistant plants and herbs. Absolutely no trees or shrubs should be in Zone 1 or 2.
4. Maintain the Zone 3 Bush Surrounding Your Home.
Zone 3 is the surrounding bush. The main problem in this zone is crowded vegetation which provides fuel for the bush fire and traps heat on hot days. The main treatment is to thin crowded vegetation and remove ladder fuels, which are weeds and shrubs that can carry the fire into higher growing shrubs and trees. Select fire-resistant plants for Zone 3 and consider clearing the perimeter as a fire break.
5. Check Your Home Insurance
Check your current home insurance to see if it covers damage or destruction caused by bush fires. A home can be damaged or destroyed when embers fall from a bush fire, so it is important to know whether or not your policy will cover damage caused by a fire that occurs on someone else’s property. If in doubt about your current coverage, get a home insurance quote for a plan that provides bush fire protection.
6. Have the Right Tools Handy
At the start of the warm season, collect the following tools and put them somewhere accessible so that they are within easy reach:
–Large capacity fire extinguisher to put out small fires.
–Shovel, to put out small bush fires.
–Broom and rake, to sweep debris away from the house.
–Brush to clear off gutters.
–Extra garden hose, to put out small fires outside of your garden.
–Power nozzle, to spray off roof and gutter debris.
–Ladder for accessing roof and gutters.
–Power blower, to blow debris away from the house perimeter.
–Assortment of buckets and pails to keep full of water for small fires.