Innovative Building Materials
To create your Firewise structure, remember that the primary goals are fuel and exposure reduction.
Use construction materials that are fire-resistant or noncombustible whenever possible.
Consider using materials such as Class-A asphalt shingles, slate or clay tile, metal, or cement and concrete products for roof construction.
Construct a fire-resistant sub-roof for added protection.
Use fire resistant materials such as stucco or masonry for exterior walls. These products are much better than vinyl which can soften and melt.
Consider both size and materials for windows; smaller panes hold up better in their frames than larger ones; double pane glass and tempered glass are more effective than single pane glass; plastic skylights can melt.
Prevent sparks from entering your home through vents, by covering exterior attic and underfloor vents with wire mesh no larger than 1/8 of an inch.
Keep your gutters, eaves and roof clear of leaves and other debris.
Clear dead wood and dense vegetation within at least 30 feet from your house, and move firewood away from your house or attachments like fences or decks.
Any structure attached to the house, such as decks, porches, fences and sheds should be considered part of the house. These structures can act as fuses or fuel bridges, particularly if constructed from flammable materials. Therefore, consider the following:
If you wish to attach an all-wood fence to your home, use masonry or metal as a protective barrier between the fence and house.
Use non-flammable metal when constructing a trellis and cover with high-moisture, fire-resistant vegetation.
Prevent combustible materials and debris from accumulating beneath patio deck or elevated porches; screen underneath or box in areas below the deck or porch with wire mesh no larger than 1/8 of an inch.
Ensuring a Fire Safe structure during construction or remodeling
Your house could be vulnerable to a wildfire because of its design, construction and location. If you are preparing to build, buy or remodel a house, you should know what to look for in a Fire Safe house. A few modifications to your construction plans can reduce the chance of your house catching fire, or resist further damage if it does catch fire. Don't let your house become another fuel for a wildfire.
If you are building a new house, locate it at least 30 feet from the boundary of your lot. This will allow you to design your landscape with at least 30 feet of defensible space around the house. Avoid ridge tops, canyons and areas between high points on a ridge. These are extremely hazardous locations for houses and firefighters because they become natural chimneys, increasing the intensity of the fire.
Exterior construction materials such as brick and stucco resist fire much better than wood. If you have a wood exterior, it is especially important that you follow the Fire Safe practices outlined in this booklet. Generally, thicker siding materials are more fire resistant.
Enclose the undersides of balconies and decks on slopes with fire resistive materials. If not enclosed, these areas can trap flames and burning embers that can ignite your home.
Your roof is the most vulnerable part of your house because it can easily catch fire from the wind-blown sparks of a wildfire. Therefore, the single most important step you can take to create a Fire Safe house is to build or re-roof with fire resistive or noncombustible materials.
There are three classifications of fire resistive roofs: Class A offers the best protection; Class C is the minimum level required by law. Contact your local fire department for specific roofing guidelines in your area.
Other Building Concerns
Roof eaves extending beyond exterior walls are also susceptible to flame exposure, and should be limited in length, boxed or enclosed with fire resistive materials. Openings such as attic or ridge vents can allow easy entry of flaming embers and sparks. Cover all vents with a non-flammable 1/4-inch mesh screen.
Every chimney and stovepipe must be covered by a non-flammable screen with a mesh no larger than 1/2 inch.
Limit the size and number of window in your home that face large areas of vegetation. Even from a distance of 30 feet away, the heat from a wildfire may be enough to ignite the furnishings inside your house. Installing dual-paned windows and sliding glass doors can reduce the potential of breakage from wind-blown debris and reduce the amount of heat transmitted from the fire to the interior of your home.