Wildfires used to occur in the late summer and early fall but things have changed over the past few years and it seems that fires occur earlier and last longer. Big Sur already had a small winter wildfire in January 2022. It took us by surprise so although it's still spring, I thought it would be a good time to go over a few prevention tips.
There are 3 main contributors to wildfires according to Monterey County Office of Emergency Services:
Topography: As slope increases, the rate of fire spread increases. South-facing slopes are subject to more solar radiation, making them drier, which intensifies fire behavior.
Fuel: The type and condition of vegetation plays a significant role in the occurrence and spread of wildland fires. Certain types of plants are more susceptible to burning or will burn with greater intensity. Dense or overgrown vegetation increases the amount of combustible material available to fuel the fire. The risk of fire is increased significantly during periods of prolonged drought as the moisture content of both living and dead plant matter decreases.
Weather: The most variable factor affecting fire behavior is weather. Temperature, humidity, wind, and lightning can affect ignition and spread. High temperatures and low humidity can lead to extreme wildfire activity.
Many towns and rural areas of Monterey County have rules that help prevent wildfires. In some jurisdictions, a fire inspection is required before the sale of a property to ensure that the property meets certain fire safety standards. In other locations, fire inspections are done by the local fire department on an annual basis to help residents prepare their homes.
Some things to Know:
Defensible space is the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it. This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it helps protect your home from catching fire—either from embers, direct flame contact or radiant heat. Proper defensible space also provides firefighters a safe area to work in, to defend your home.
Hardening your home means preparing your home for fire. Some examples include:
Homes with wood or shingle roofs are at high risk of being destroyed during a wildfire. Build your roof or re-roof with materials such as composition, metal, clay or tile. Remove accumulated vegetative debris from the roof.
Vents on homes create openings for flying embers. Cover all vent openings with 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch metal mesh.
Eaves should be boxed in (soffited-eave design) and protected with ignition-resistant* or noncombustible materials.
Heat from a wildfire can cause windows to break even before the home is on fire. Single-paned and large windows are particularly vulnerable so install dual paned windows whenever possible.
Wood products, such as boards, panels or shingles, are flammable and not good choices for fire-prone areas.
Deck surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant, noncombustible, or other approved materials.
Keep rain gutters clear or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris.
There are a lot of things you can do to protect your home from fire but as an added benefit, remember that hardening your home will also help curb the costs of fire and home insurance. The more you do to protect your home, the easier it will be to insure.
I hope this was helpful and let's all do our part to keep our neighborhoods fire free!
Source: Monterey County Office of Emergency Services website