Tampa, Florida (PRWEB) August 09, 2013
The fast-moving Silver Fire in Southern California continues to grow and threaten communities, reminding us of the importance of preparing for wildfire. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) urges residents in wildfire-prone regions around the country to prepare their homes and businesses before a wildfire threatens.
“One of the most important ways that property owners in wildfire-prone areas can make their homes and businesses more resistant to wildfire is by creating defensible space on their property. This will slow the wildfire in the vicinity of your home or business and help keep it from igniting your home or business,” said Dr. Steve Quarles, IBHS senior scientist and wildfire expert. “This is an effective way to reduce a building’s vulnerability to wildfire. While home and business owners can’t control the path of a wildfire, creating effective defensible space can go a long way towards saving a building.”
The Silver Fire has burned more than 14,000 acres and damaged or destroyed at least 27 structures after igniting on Wednesday afternoon near Banning, California, according to the Los Angeles Times. The fire rapidly turned into an uncontrolled blaze that has forced approximately 1,800 residents to evacuate.
The fire moved so swiftly that evacuation points were cut off for some residents, forcing emergency officials to tell some property owners to “shelter in place.” If put into a situation where you are unable to evacuate, Quarles indicates that the home is a safer place to be compared to outside or in a vehicle, but that residents that are “trapped” must actively monitor the situation around their home.
“While in a home, residents need to be vigilant about understanding where the fire is and how to react,” said Quarles. “This situation is an example demonstrating the importance of having a home prepared for wildfire, and a property where an effective defensible space has been created and maintained.”
The typically specified 100 feet of defensible space can take you into a neighboring property. In these cases, neighborhood and community-wide education and actions are critical.
To create defensible space, IBHS recommends the following:
ZONE 1: THE AREA ADJACENT TO YOUR HOME (0-5 FEET)
The objective of this zone is to reduce the chance that wind-blown embers landing near the building, igniting materials and exposing the home to flames.
- Select and install products such as rock or gravel mulches in this area, or noncombustible hardscape features such as brick or concrete walkways.
- Do not store firewood and other combustible materials (e.g., lumber) in this zone.
- Choose low growing, non-woody, herbaceous plant materials, and maintain them.
ZONE 2: THE AREA FROM 5 TO 30 FEET OF YOUR HOME OR TO THE PROPERTY LINE
The objective of this zone is to create a landscape that will not readily transmit fire to the home. The vegetation in this area should be arranged in islands, or well-spaced groupings. Ladder fuels should be removed. In order to minimize the amount of radiant heat that could impact the building, outbuildings (e.g., tool sheds, play structures) should not be located in this zone.
- This area requires the most thinning and horizontal separation between trees and other vegetation groupings, and removal items that could result in a very intense fire close to your home. The objective of thinning and separation is to reduce the chance that ignited vegetation will provide a direct path for fire to burn to the home.
- Boats, trailers, and other combustible structures should not be located or stored in this zone.
Summary of steps to improve defensible space in Zones 1 and 2
- Prune branches that hang over your home so that they are at least 10 feet away.
- Remember the importance of the 0 to 5 foot “noncombustible zone” and remove combustible vegetation and other combustible materials in the area immediately adjacent to your home and under the entire foot print of your attached deck. If ignited, vegetation in this zone will expose the side of your house and under-eave area to flames.
- Limb up trees and remove dead material from all vegetation on your property.
Although not strictly a defensible space issue, it is also important to remove vegetative debris (e.g., pine needles) from your gutters and roof on a regular basis.
ZONE 3: THE AREA FROM 30 TO 100 FEET FROM YOUR HOME OR TO THE PROPERTY LINE
The objective if vegetation management in this zone is to reduce the energy and speed of the wildfire. Trees and brush spacing should force the fire in the tops of the tree, brush or shrub crowns to drop to the ground. Flame lengths should decrease.
- Remove dead plant materials and tree branches.
- Ladder fuels are those that allow fire to climb into the upper portion of the tree. Eliminate ladder fuels.
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About the IBHS – IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks on residential and commercial property by conducting building science research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparedness practices.
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Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety