Download PDF Be Fire Safe!: How to Avoid Fire, Reduce Loss and Recover from Insurance if You do have a Fire

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Houses marked in orange burned down. The movement of the fire front is indicated by the red arrow.

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Based on the concept of defensible space, houses 1 and 2 should not have burned down because they were hundreds of feet away from the actual fire. They burned because embers ignited the roof of one which in turn ignited its neighbor. The basic rule is to eliminate flammable materials fire-prone vegetation, wood stacks, wood decking, patio furniture, umbrellas, etc. Unfortunately the term "clearance" is frequently used when referring to this foot zone, leading people to think all vegetation must be removed down to bare soil. This is why the city of San Diego Fire and Rescue Department has replaced the word "clearance" to "thinning" when referring to vegetation management around homes and the new California defensible space law has changed the way vegetation management should be viewed see below.

Officials in the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection CalFire are continually trying to help citizens understand that clearance doesn't mean the removal of all native plants. These weeds are considered "flashy fuels" which actually increase fire risk because they ignite so easily.

It shows an excellent diagram of what an area looks like after proper thinning. Recommended books. Where's the chaparral? Old-growth chaparral.

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Chaparral geology. Tiny things. Grizzly Bear N. Rancho Guejito. CalFire EIR. Chaparral as evil. Panic over Fire. Climate Change. Loss in Cuyamaca. Carbon Sequestration. The current approach to reducing wildfire risk, clearing habitat and logging, does little to protect communities at greatest risk of destruction. This focus is promoted by the timber, biomass, grazing, and fire industries because it benefits them financially.

It does not protect our families. The most devastating wildfires, including the Thomas, Tubbs, Nuns, and Atlas fires were many miles away from forests , the focus of much of the attention. The burning of trees in "biomass" generators is not carbon neutral.

After the Fire or Disaster: Dealing with Your Insurance Company

It adds significant carbon to the atmosphere. With all the talk about dead trees, none of the most devastating fires had anything to do with dead trees , which are primarily concentrated along the western Sierra Nevada. Excessive clearance distances beyond feet of defensible space actually increases fire risk by encouraging the growth of more flammable non-native weeds and creates a "bowling alley" for embers to target homes.

Please download our 12 recommendations here in our letter to Governor Newsom. This page focuses on why homes burn and why the almost exclusive focus on the "clearance" of native vegetation is counterproductive to our efforts to reduce fire risk.

Here is our Plea to California's Fire Agencies to focus their fire prevention messages. After becoming familiar with the details presented here, please see our Fire Safe Techniques page for products and methods available to homeowners and communities. Also see a summary of California's new defensible space law. Key Point: Reduce your home's flammability The three most important factors in home flammability are, 1. Location 2. Eliminating flammable features of your home 3. Proper defensible space.

Start from the "house out rather than from the wildland in" to create sustainable, fire safe environments to protect your home and nature. It doesn't have to happen Extreme, wind-driven wildfires are inevitable. Does that mean wildfire caused disasters to communities are inevitable as well?

CALIFORNIA CHAPARRAL INSTITUTE

Please watch the video below created by Dr. It's not the Wildland Vegetation, it's the Location. After investigating why homes burn in wildfires, research scientist Alexandra Syphard concluded, "We're finding that geography is most important—where is the house located and where are houses placed on the landscape. They then mapped the structures that had burned in those areas between and , a time of devastating wildfires in the region.

Buildings on steep slopes, in Santa Ana wind corridors and in low-density developments intermingled with wild lands were the most likely to have burned. Nearby vegetation was not a big factor in home destruction. We hope local planning agencies, fire agencies, and politicians will begin to incorporate this new research to better protect both human communities and the beautiful wildlands that often surround them.

Housing arrangement and location determine the likelihood of housing loss due to wildfire. A Wet Home. Keeps the Embers and Flames at Bay. As a wildfire approaches, external sprinklers wet the structure at risk, the surrounding environment, and increase the local humidity to prevent ignition. External sprinklers provide a novel, but effective way to prevent a home from igniting during a wildfire.

Such an approach is uncommon because traditionally home fires started inside, hence the use of internal fire sprinklers. However, internal sprinklers are designed to save lives, not homes. Clusters of homes could be served by a community water tank that should be a requirement for every planned development. Many residents have taken it upon themselves to retrofit their own homes with external sprinkler systems. The home was located in a canyon where many homes and lives were lost to the flames.

You can read their story here. There are a number of companies that offer external sprinkler installation. M-Bar Technologies offers an excellent objective analysis of one system. For additional information,.

There were few, if any, reports of homes burned as a result of direct contact with flames" from wildland fuels. From: Institute for Business and Home Safety. Mega Fires: The Case for Mitigation. The Witch Creek Wildfire, October , The importance of embers is nothing new. Wayne Tyson highlighted this issue in during the Cedar Fire. The notion that if feet of defensible space is good, then feet must be better is false. Creating large areas of clearance with little or no vegetation creates a "bowling alley" for embers. Without the interference of thinned, lightly irrigated vegetation, the house becomes the perfect ember catcher.

To make matters worse, when a fire front hits a bare fuel break or clearance area, a shower of embers are often released. From: Koo, E, R.

Linn, P. Pagni, and C. International Journal of Wildland Fire Key Point: Fire will exploit the weakest link. Many homes with adequate or excessive defensible space have still burned to the ground because embers have entered through attic vents, ignited flammable materials around the home litter in the gutter, wood stacks, wood fencing , or found their way under roofing materials.

Solution: Reduce the flammability of the home as much as possible. Install ember resistant vents, Class A roofing, external sprinklers operated by an independent system, and remove flammable materials from around the structure. Federal grants are available to help communities retrofit homes to make them more fire safe.

Details of these FEMA pre-disaster grants can be found here. The process is complicated, but it can be accomplished.


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Note: This is for a community, not for individual homeowners. A non-profit fire safe council, or some other non-profit, will need to apply. Additional information on the impact of embers is available in the following publications: Maranghides, A. US Department of Commerce.

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Protecting your home from wildfire

Will your home be prepared when the embers arrive? An excellent booklet from the University of Nevada. VIDEO: Darian Spencer, a young scientist from San Diego, demonstrates how vegetation can protect a home from flying embers, the main cause of home ignition. Here are two of Cohen's papers addressing this issue: Cohen, J.

Cohen, J. How much defensible space? In a study of over a half million homes it was found that: 1. The amount of cover reduced is as important as the fuel modification distance; however complete removal of cover is not necessary. The concise USGS summary of the study.