Being a forest dweller myself, I can well imagine the horror of seeing an approaching wildfire like those in California, Oregon, Washington State, the Amazon, Australia and other countries.
Quebec experiences forest fires, too, but the region I live in has been unscathed — so far.
But I know it could happen here. All it would take is a dry spell, like one we had early this summer, along with lightning strikes or careless people. The forest does recover in time, but the lives of forest dwellers might never be the same, including displaced animals.
Some of this blog’s readers live near areas affected by wildfires right now. I feel for you, as I’m sure everyone looking in here does.
Feel free to reach out in the comments section here.
Three simple steps
From California comes this video with the accompanying text: “In California, wildfires aren’t a question of if, but only a question of when. If you choose to live near a natural area of the state, you are at risk for wildfires and it’s your responsibility to prepare yourself, your family, and your home. And that preparation starts with three simple steps: READY, SET, GO!”
We have vast stretches of forests destroyed by the bark beetle and the drought. Combine that with record-setting heat over the entire summer and you’ve got what is fueling these megablazes.
There’s a lot you can do to make a rural homestead fire resistant but few people do it because they want the aesthetics of being nestled in with trees or shrubbery and don’t want the cost of fire resistant exterior improvements.
I would like to know more about making homes more fire resistant. Could you explain here, please.
Wow. That’s a long post by itself.
Long story short. There are three factors: Landscaping, house exterior and the openings into the house.
In terms of landscaping, it boils down to defensible space.
There are plants that are almost entirely made of water that are good to use in close. Iceplant is an example. Some plants burn hotter than others. Eucalyptus trees almost explode in a fire while oaks are quite resistant. Leaves in rain gutters are a source of ignition. So are trash, firewood stacks and significant amounts of grass clippings.
You want to keep all vegetation thoroughly watered. Some rural areas out here require residents to keep a 5000-gallon water tank just for firefighting. OTOH, xeriscapes are highly resistant to fire. Lawn sprinklers are your friend! Keep things like propane tanks away from the house and surrounded by block walls. There is just so much to say that I can only scratch the surface!
For the house exterior, it is a matter of having no exposed surfaces that will burn. Given the amount of wood that is used in home construction, that is a tall order. There are heat resistant and fire retardant paints for use on exterior wood/plastic surfaces. Plus there is the roofing to be concerned about. In LA, code won’t allow a roof that is not virtually fireproof. Decks are especially problematic.
The fire retardant they inject into wood does not last forever. Eventually, rain washes the treatment out and the sun damages it. Treated wood shingles are especially bad about that. Either replace wood with fire-resistant materials or be very diligent about keeping it painted. The areas under the eves and wooden doors are also problematic.
Stucco is probably the best exterior material to use in fire country. There are also fire resistant and fireproof siding materials. A raw log cabin is extremely problematic.
All homes have openings thru which fire can get in. Hot embers can travel for thousands of feet. All the vents along your attic, including those under eves, need to be covered with 1/8 inch steel mesh. The same thing is true of your crawl space openings and any openings under a deck.
A big fire can ignite a fire through a window a hundred yards away just by radiant heat. So can superheated air. Double and even triple layer fire resistant glass will insulate the inside from the hot air. Ideally, since glass can break, you’d want an aluminum window screen over the entire opening. Plastic screens just melt. (The ideal window treatment on the outside would be a metal roll-up covering. Most people are not going to go that far.)
On the inside, the ideal covering would be metal Venetian blinds. Heat reflective and fireproof and heavy enough for some limited protection should the screen and window be compromised. Otherwise, curtains can be a fire retardant fabric with a white fire retardant liner.
You could just a concrete box with steel shutters but nobody wants to live that way.
Sorry, but my response got away from me. I could probably turn this into multiple full-length posts that would fascinate me and bore everyone else to tears. Fires and firefighting are something I’ve studied in-depth and my Aspie enthusiasm for the subject kind of bubbled over. Hope it offered some useful ideas.
Wildfire is one of those things where you can do everything wrong and get away with it or you can do everything right and still burn to charcoal. Everything you do just shifts the odds and you have to balance costs against the benefit of risk abatement.
Wow. Thank you for all this, Fred. It went into the spam folder because of all the links, hence the delay in it appearing here. You’ve given me a lot to think about.
I’m wondering why homes in vulnerable areas aren’t made of stone (exterior)or some other non-flammable material.
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