A gutter full of dried leaves

Hardening Your Home Can Help in a Wildfire

The wildfires raging across California, Oregon, and other western states are a yearly reminder of nature’s destructive power.

With fires having already torched thousands of homes and businesses, now is the time to take the necessary steps to harden your home and increase its chance of surviving if wildfire strikes. It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money.

Clear the roof and gutters

The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home to a wildfire. Flying embers from wildfires can ignite vegetation and houses up to one mile away

FEMA recommends regularly clearing dry leaves and other debris from your roof and gutters. Even better, spend the money to install non-combustible gutter covers to prevent sticks and leaves from collecting in the first place.

To prevent flying embers, block or box any openings in the home’s structure, such as eaves and soffit. 

And when it is time to replace your roof, replace it with fire-resistant Class A, the highest grade, roof material. Be sure to have a fireproof underlayment applied to the roof decking during installation. 

Protect the home’s exterior 

It’s crucial to inspect your exterior siding for dry rot, gaps, cracks, and warping. Gaps or holes greater than 1/16-inch in siding should be plugged or caulked. 

Install fire-resistant weather stripping to the bottom of your garage door to help prevent embers from entering. The stripping must be compliant with UL Standard10C, according to Cal Fire.

Radiant heat from a fire can cause windows to break even before the fire reaches the property, allowing burning embers to enter and start fires inside. 

If it’s in the budget or when it’s time to replace your windows, install dual-paned windows with at least one pane of tempered glass. Also, consider limiting the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation.

Remove flammable household items

If you cannot afford to make significant changes to your home or landscaping, a quick assessment of your property can help identify and remove flammable items. Remove couch cushions and outdoor furniture, and any brooms that are stored outside. 

Also, move combustible materials, like propane tanks for grills, from underneath, on top, or within five feet of a deck. 

It’s best to store flammable materials in a fire-rated cabinet in the garage. Moving those materials away from ignition sources can also help.

For more ideas on how to fireproof your home, check out Cal Fire’s Homeowner’s Checklist.