Early Prevention Needed in Home Fire Protection

September 14, 2004

Protecting one’s home from wildfires doesn’t have to be a major investment.

Even small steps can make a big difference. Whether one spends a day in the garden landscaping with fire-resistant plants or takes on an extensive renovation project to replace a shake shingle roof, there is a wide range of opportunities available to make the home fire safe.

“We know from experience that brush clearance and fire-smart building can save lives and property,” Candysse Miller, executive director of the non-profit Insurance Information Network of California, said. “Homeowners need to stop thinking ‘it can never happen to me’ and prepare for the possibility that it can.”

Last fall’s firestorms destroyed more than 3,700 homes. Far less may have been destroyed had homeowners followed a layered approach to fire safety. This involves both low-cost changes and more involved fire-safe building retrofitting.

Low cost fixes include:

* Boxing in eaves, facias and soffits to prevent burning embers from entering attics and basements;

* Installing a spark arrestor on a chimney to prevent fireplace embers from being blown by the wind;

* Installing fire-resistant, highly visible street signs and address numbers to help firefighters identify the property in the thickest smoke; and

* Landscaping with fire-resistant plants, such as ice plants, which are both aesthetically appealing and native to California.

For more involved retrofitting, individuals can consider:

* Re-roofing with Class A fire-rated materials, including tile, metal or concrete shingles;

* Replacing exterior single-pane glass windows with insulated, tempered glass; and

* Renovating wooden siding with fire-resistant materials such as stucco or metal.

Common sense is still the best first line of defense. Individuals should keep flammable materials as far from the house as possible. This includes pruning trees, and removing brush or stacks of wood that may be too close to the home.

With more than 140,000 wildfires occurring each year in the United States, homeowners can reportedly help themselves, firefighters and their communities by following these simple steps.

Additional fire prevention tips, fire-resistant landscaping advice and a free brochure by the Institute for Business and Home Safety on protecting one’s home against a wildfire can be found on the IINC Web site at www.iinc.org.

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