Ready for a Wildfire?
The first and most important ignition zone is Zone 1. This is the Home and the adjacent area 0 to 5 feet next to the foundation and under the decks.
Step 1: The Home
Where to start? Walk around your home and look for areas that could allow embers to gain access to flammable materials.
Check for weathered decking with large cracks or decayed material. Gaps between the deck and wall are spaces embers can get into. Routinely remove debris from your deck as well as from gaps between decking or deck framing. Patio furniture with cushions catches fire easily, even from embers. Tables, plants, hammocks, and welcome mats can all put your deck and home at risk.
Windows and Doors
Check for cracks and gaps in the same way as the siding and trim. Check to see if there is debris between screens and windows, if so clean out the debris. Check to see if windows are multiple-pane. If they are single-pane, plan to upgrade to multiple panes. These windows are able to withstand the heat in a wildland-urban interface fire and will save you money on your heating bills in the winter.
Note: If you are evacuating, close all the windows and doors.
Eaves and Gables
Check for cracks and gaps and caulk if needed. Look for roof vents, gable, and crawl space vents that come standard with a 1/4 inch steel screen. The 1/4 inch screen can allow embers through the screen into the soffit or attic at a rate of 100 embers per minute. Replace these with a 1/8-inch steel screen. If accessible, you can put the 1/8-inch screen behind the ¼-inch screen on the back side of the vent out of view.
Roof and Gutters
Clean roof and gutters. Remove dead leaves, debris, and pine needles that could catch embers. The edge overhang of shingles should have a metal drip edge. Asphalt shingles are resistant to embers on the asphalt side but the underside can and will readily catch on fire.
Once you have the home ready, the next step is the foundation and the first 5 feet around the home including under the deck. If an ember hits the home and can’t find a place to stay, it falls to the ground. If it falls on a non-combustible surface then it is no threat to your home.
Step 2: The First 5 feet
Have the first 5 feet around your home be non-combustible surfaces, such as pavers, rock, or gravel. Mulch next to the foundation puts your home at risk. Embers could land and ignite the mulch.
Under the Deck
This area should be noncombustible. A fire under a deck will quickly start the deck on fire and extend to the structure itself. Firewood and other flammable materials should be stored somewhere else.
The use of deciduous plants is a great choice because they generally have a higher moisture content. Trim dead branches and clean leaf litter from under shrubs. Give them frequent irrigation.