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  • How Wildfires Affect Your Home


  • November 20, 2022

    Wildfires cost millions of dollars in property damage every year. They can disrupt lives, cause serious injuries, and even result in death. They also force people to vacate their homes, often giving them no choice but to leave the structure to be razed to the ground. 

    But even if your house doesn’t burn down, it can be severely affected by wildfires. These unplanned conflagrations typically occur in forests, prairies, grasslands, and other natural areas and quickly spread to nearby communities. 

    One of the most terrifying aspects of wildfires is their unpredictability. No one knows for certain when and where a wildfire will take place. 

    Of course, certain areas and times of the year have been identified as being high risk for these incidents. Even so, there is little anyone can do to protect their home against a wildfire in full force. If the blaze isn’t contained immediately, it can destroy several houses completely within a few hours. 

    How Wildfires Affect Homes

    Keeping your family safe from wildfires requires adequate preparation and awareness of the proper steps to take. It would also help to know how wildfires typically affect communities so you can reduce the risk of property damage and loss. 

    There are three ways wildfires threaten homes:

    • Flying embers
    • Flame contact 
    • Radiant heat

    Flying Embers

    Airborne embers are among the most common and dangerous causes of damage or loss of homes due to wildfires. Known colloquially as “firebrands”, embers consist of burning vegetation and construction materials that can be carried high above the ground by the wind. They can also be blown up to a mile away from the wildfire site and affect homes they come in contact with. 

    When burning embers land on or near your home, they can ignite nearby vegetation and other combustible materials. These, in turn, could increase the risk of your house catching fire. 

    You may be able to prevent this from happening by setting up a defensible space around your home. Experts advise clearing an area five feet around the structure to discourage potentially combustible vegetation from growing and threatening your home. 

    You can reduce the fire risk even further by using fireproof materials for your roof, installing screens on vents, and disposing of combustible materials in and around your home. 

    Flame Contact

    Direct contact with flame may not occur as frequently as contact with airborne embers, but it could still happen. This is a very real possibility when the wildfire comes close enough to allow the open flames to come in contact with your home. 

    The damage can be considerable, as you might expect. Open flames can heat your home’s building materials. These can ignite if exposed to a fire of sufficient intensity and for long enough periods. In some cases, the fire may even be hot enough to cause your window glass to break. 

    Combustible sidings are especially prone to igniting from high-intensity fires. For most houses, direct contact with open flames will almost certainly result in severe or total damage.

    Radiant Heat

    Radiant heat refers to the thermal energy transferred by air to other objects. This typically occurs when nearby materials burn. Even without direct contact with open flames, your house is at risk of igniting if exposed to sufficient radiant heat for an extended period. 

    Radiant heat can affect your home in other ways. It may cause your window glass to shatter in some cases, allowing airborne embers into the house. 

    Furthermore, radiant heat can pre-heat exposed surfaces and increase the risk of ignition due to contact with embers and open flames. This can happen even if the heat itself isn’t storing enough nor doesn’t take place long enough to cause the house to catch fire. For this reason, even vegetation and other combustible materials located a distance from the blog could pose a fire hazard.

    Wildfires & Your Home

    Apart from preparation and quick action, the best way to safeguard against wildfire is to address the three most common threats they pose to residences. It is a formidable challenge to be sure. But proper design, preventive maintenance, and household management can prevent flying embers, flame contact, and radiant heat from razing your home to the ground. 

    In real-world terms, this would mean: 

    1. Arranging and landscaping your home and the surrounding vegetation to reduce the risk of having them ignited by embers. 
    2. Fire-proofing your home with noncombustible roofing materials, attic screens, and foundation vents.
    3. Setting up a defensible space that reduces the fire threat to your home.

    Taking these steps will hopefully reduce the damage your home incurs and hopefully even spare it completely. 

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