HARDENING YOUR HOME

Prepare for wildfire and harden your home now. There are three ways your home can be exposed to wildfire: direct flames from a wildfire or burning neighboring home; radiant heat from nearby burning plants or structures; and flying embers. Flying embers from a wildfire can destroy homes up to a mile away and are responsible for the destruction of most homes during a wildfire.

Taking the necessary measures to harden (prepare) your home can help increase its likelihood of survival when wildfire strikes.

Here are ways you can harden your home and make it more fire resistant.

Ways to Begin Retrofits to Your Home

Roof

The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. 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. Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching.
  • Remove accumulated vegetative debris from the roof.

Vents

Vents on homes create openings for flying embers.

  • Cover all vent openings with 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch metal mesh. Do not use fiberglass or plastic mesh because they can melt and burn.
  • Use Ember and flame resistant vents (WUI vents).

Eaves and Soffits

Eaves should be boxed in (soffited-eave design) and protected with ignition-resistant* or non-combustible materials.

Windows

Heat from a wildfire can cause windows to break even before the home is on fire. This allows burning embers to enter and start fires inside. Single-paned and large windows are particularly vulnerable.

  • Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breakage in a fire.
  • Consider limiting the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation.
  • Install screens in all usable windows to increase ember resistance and decrease radiant heat exposure

Walls

Wood products, such as boards, panels or shingles, are common siding materials. However, they are flammable and not good choices for fire-prone areas.

  • Build or remodel your walls with ignition resistant* building materials, such as stucco, fiber cement wall siding, fire retardant, treated wood, or other approved materials. This is especially important when neighboring homes are within 30-feet of the home.
  • Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.
  • Smaller spaces, such as the roof-to-wall area, should have their siding relaced with a noncombustible material.

Decks

Surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant*, non-combustible, or other approved materials.

  • Create an ember-resistant zone around and under all decks and make sure that all combustible items are removed from underneath your deck.
  • If a deck overhangs a slope, create and maintain defensible space downslope from the deck to reduce the chances of flames reaching the underside of the deck.

Rain Gutters

Keep rain gutters clear or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris.

  • Install a corrosion-resistant and noncombustible metal drip edge for additional protection of the combustible components on your roof’s edge.
  • Use a noncombustible gutter cover to prevent buildup of debris and vegetation in the gutter

Patio Cover

Use the same ignition-resistant* materials for patio coverings as a roof.

Chimney

Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-flammable screen. Use metal screen material with openings no smaller than 3/8-inch and no larger than 1/2-inch to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.

  • Close the fireplace flue during fire season when the chimney is not being used.

Garage

Have a fire extinguisher and tools such as a shovel, rake, bucket, and hose available for fire emergencies.

  • Add a battery back-up to the garage door motor so that the garage can easily be operated if power is out.
  • Install weather stripping around and under the garage door to prevent embers from blowing in.
  • Store all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.
  • Treat windows and vents in the garage the same way as if it was a part of the house.

Fences

Best practice is to separate your fence from your house or upgrade the last 5-feet of the fence to a noncombustible material to reduce the chance of the fence from bringing fire to your home.

Driveways and Access Roads

Driveways should be built and maintained in accordance with state and local codes to allow fire and emergency vehicles to reach your home. Consider maintaining access roads with a minimum of 10 feet of clearance on either side, allowing for two-way traffic.

  • Ensure that all gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate emergency equipment.
  • Trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass.

Address

Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road.

Water Supply

Consider having multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property. If you have a pool or well, consider getting a pump.

Useful Links

Fire Information Engine—Preparing Your Home
University of California—Fire Resources and Information

*Ignition-resistant building materials are those that resist ignition or sustained burning when exposed to embers and small flames from wildfires. Examples of ignition-resistant materials include “non-combustible materials” that don’t burn, exterior grade fire-retardant-treated wood lumber, fire-retardant-treated wood shakes and shingles listed by the State Fire Marshal (SFM) and any material that has been tested in accordance with SFM Standard 12-7A-5.