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Wildfire Season is Here! Is Your Property Ready?

My heart goes out to everyone on Maui who is battling the terrible fires that broke out a couple of days ago. It is a sobering reminder of how quickly fire can spread and how unpredictable nature can be. Many of us live in forested areas and this year's rain brought a lot of tall grasses that are now perfect fire fuel. I recently attended a fire prevention seminar and thought I would share some information to help you protect your property and your family.

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.

Some things to Know:

Creating a defensible space gives you a buffer 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 wildfires 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. There are 3 zones:

Zone 0: The first five feet from your home is the most important. Keeping the area closest to buildings, structures, and decks clear will prevent embers from igniting materials that can spread the fire to your home. Use hardscape, remove all dead and dying plants, limit combustible items, relocate firewood and lumber, replace combustible fencing, gates, and arbors, relocate garbage and recycling containers outside this zone.

Zone 1: Within 30 feet, regularly clear dead or dry vegetation and create space between trees. During times of drought when watering is limited, pay special attention to clearing dead or dying material.

Zone 2: Continue reducing potential fuel within 100 feet or the property line. Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of four inches, create horizontal and vertical space between shrubs and trees, remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones, and small branches, keep 10 feet of clearance around exposed wood piles, down to bare mineral soil, in all directions, clear areas around outbuildings and propane tanks.

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 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


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