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Smother Wildfire Loss Exposures

"And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor."

~Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven"

The 2017 California wildfire season was the most destructive one on record, with a total of over 9,000 fires burning over 1.3 million acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Thomas Fire in Ventura County alone forced over 212,000 people to evacuate and is the largest wildfire in California recorded history. AccuWeather predicts that the total economic toll of these California wildfires may reach a daunting $180 billion.

The good news is that there are certain preventive steps a home owner can take in the face of this dreadful loss exposure. If you live in a wildfire-prone area, the following are some tips for you to mitigate the risk of suffering a wildfire loss.

 

  • Make sure firefighters can identify and access your home, starting with a visible address from the street. Remember that emergency vehicles are large, tall, and wide. Verify that your driveway is at least 12 feet wide and clear of low-hanging branches.
  • Ensure that recreational fires are made in a fire-safe pit or container and completely extinguished before leaving. Avoid lighting fires when high temperatures, high winds, and low humidity are present. Instead, consider composting.
  • Consider noncombustible or fire-resistant roofing materials, such as Class A asphalt shingles, metal, cement, and concrete products, as well as terra-cotta tiles, if you are building a house or planning to replace a roof. These types of roofs are less susceptible to burning embers from a wildfire.
  • Remove any dead branches, leaves, and any other vegetation from your roof and gutters.
  • Remove any dry brush from your yard, and stack firewood at least 20 or 25 feet from your home.
  • Create a "fuel-break"—driveways, gravel walkways, or lawns.
  • Prevent sparks from entering your home by covering vents with wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch. Cover skylights and chimney outlets with nonflammable screening materials.
  • Use tempered glass in your windows since this material withstands high temperatures from wildfires better than regular plate or double pane glass.
  • Make trellises of nonflammable metal.
  • Avoid certain exterior siding materials, such as vinyl, which soften and melt easily under high temperatures. Instead, select siding materials such as stucco or masonry, since these resist heat better.

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International Risk Management Institute, Inc.