The year 2020 has been filled with terrible wildfires in the west, in areas that were not considered to be in the “danger zone,” such as Oregon, Washington and parts of California. Unfortunately these fires are still raging in many of these areas which resulted in destruction and evacuations. Many believe the top priority should be put on being better prepared and enforcing roofing materials to protect against wildfires.
California updated its residential fire code for building new construction in early 2008, requiring fire-resistant roofs, siding and other safeguards. This has protected 51% of the new construction homes built after 2008 that were in the path of wildfires. In contrast to the 12,100 homes built prior to 2008 with only 18% avoiding destruction. Many other states that are affected by wildfires have yet to consider adopting the same fire codes as California. The metal roofing alliance (MRA) is leading the trade organization to adopt the basic standard and create incentives to help homeowners protect their homes against wildfires in certain states and regions.
The most important factor to provide and protect against wildfires starts with how a home or building is constructed and designed. This all determines the behavior of wildland fires. Implementing mandates such as fire-resistant roofs, siding and other safeguards, help people and homes survive. Research supports that homes built after 2008 sustained far less damage than home prior. In areas such as the Gulf Coast that have been devastated by destructive hurricanes have had to learn hard lessons in the need to build homes that are more resilient to severe climates. Miami Dade is the first in Florida to certify hurricane resistant standards for structures which the Florida Building Code subsequently enacted across all requirements for Hurricane resistant buildings. It is important for the west coast to adopt a similar mindset for regional climate conditions for homeowners in wildfire prone areas.
Your home’s roof is the most vulnerable part for ignition in the presence of a wildfire, certain materials like quality metal for a roofing system are essential. Metal roofs have a Class A rating for fire resistance and living in wildfire prone areas it can make or break you. Building materials that are fire resistant are not particularly expensive and when you factor in how long a metal roof will last you, it is definitely worth every penny. You should consult with your local roofing company to see what you can do to upgrade your home with fire-resistant materials.
Recent studies show that a new home built completely to wildfire resistant codes can be built for roughly the same cost as the typical home, and much less costly than potential fire damage. Fires are still raging on the West Coast so they are still being assessed, but the MRA urges builders and local officials to help better prepare homeowners for future wildfire seasons.
Mandate fire-resistant building materials
Similar to California, populations located in wildland areas have grown and continue to grow in recent years. These homes are located near flammable vegetation close to forested areas, raising a constant threat of wildfire destruction to land and homes. Newer standards that mandate fire-resistant roofing systems discourage potentially flammable materials like asphalt shingles and wooden shakes. It should be mandatory that every local roofing company in fire prone areas, educates their customers on fire-resistant materials, better roofing standards and strictly enforce the use of them.
Incentives to improve fire safety
Low interest loans, tax credits, local grants and other incentives are available in some areas to help people living in locations threatened by wildfires. Some owners of older homes that do not have the means to make fire-resistant upgrades on their own, so these incentives are a huge help. In 2009 California passed an ordinance declaring that a wood shake roofing system is a severe fire hazard. They then offered a cash incentive to replace their roof with a fire-resistant version and $4,500 to do so. Now because of this, the amount of wood shake roofs are very rare and no new home is built without a fire-resistant roofing system.
Providing education about fire safety
Communities that live in fire prone areas need to better educate their people on better roofing standards, the most resilient maintenance, home improvement, and preparation planning for fire season. There are many ways to help increase the odds that your family and home will be protected during a wildfire. There are various free resources from insurance companies that have a history in dealing with wildfires and in your local communities. “As we witness the horrible destruction wildfires have and are causing, the more we can do as an industry and community to help homeowners protect themselves against these increasing threats, the better,” said Ramey. “Investing in preventative measures now that help decrease risks is essential to guarding against costly devastation and suffering in the future.” (Ramey, MRA executive director)
Preparing your home for a wildfire
Even if you have purchased top of the line Class A fire-resistant roofing and home materials, sometimes nothing can prevent a wildfire from approaching your home. In these cases there are some tips to prepare your home and family for what could be coming. We suggest creating a home evacuation checklist to ensure you don’t forget anything, in the case that you and your family will need to evacuate your home. On this checklist we suggest having:
- An evacuation bag ready to go ASAP
- Make sure to know your communities emergency response plan to map out routes to drive
- Shut all windows and doors of the house
- Remove flammable curtains and window shades
- Shut off your gas at the meter and be sure pilot lights are off
- Leave your lights on in the house so firefighters can see your home in smoky areas
- Shut off your air conditioning
- Turn off your propane tanks outside and move BBQ away from the house
- Connect garden hoses to outside valves and make sure water is on for firefighters to use
- Do not leave water sprinkler on outside, it affects critical water pressure needed
- If you have a ladder leave it against your home in the case that firefighters need to go on your roof quickly
- Seal your attic vent with plywood
- Clean up leaves and flammable debris
- Continuously check your property and surrounding areas, do not wait for an official evacuation order, if you feel it’s time to go, the GO!
- Check on your close neighbors and of course your pets