Fire hardened means your home is prepared for wildfire and an ember storm. It does not mean fireproof. Home hardening addresses the most vulnerable components of your house with building materials and installation techniques that increase resistance to heat, flames, and embers that accompany most wildfires.
Embers are responsible for most damage during wildfires. They can accumulate on your home, deck, or porch and ignite plants, mulch, leaves, fencing, or furniture. They can also be forced into gaps in the home (e.g. attic vents or an open or broken window) and burn the home from the inside out. When this happens, there can be little damage to the surrounding vegetation, leaving people puzzled as to what caused the home to burn.
The FireSafe Council has partnered with the following agencies to provide Home Hardening for Santa Clara County residents.
YOUR TOP 3 PRIORITIES SHOULD BE YOUR ROOF, VENTS, AND NEAR-HOME VEGETATION.
- Avoid combustible materials on the property, especially within the first five feet of the home.
- Incorporate fire- and ember-resistant construction materials, installation details, and maintenance.
- Be thoughtful about landscaping choices and maintenance.
The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. Homes with wood or shingle roofs are at high risk of being destroyed during a wildfire.
- Inspect and repair or replace your roof with tile, metal, asphalt, or shingles (materials with a Class-A fire rating).
- Plug gaps between your roof covering and sheathing to prevent ember entry.
- Install a metal drip edge (i.e., metal angle flashing) at the roof edge.
- Cover tile caps to prevent bird nesting.
Vents can allow embers to enter a crawl space, the attic, soffit, or foundation.
- Cover all vent openings with 1/16″ to 1/8″ metal mesh as a minimum. Traditional 1/4″ wire mesh openings are too large, and allow embers to pass. Vents with wire mesh AND baffles are best, or use vents marketed specifically as ember resistant and approved by the CA State Fire Marshal. Do not use fiberglass or plastic mesh.
- Protect vents in eaves or cornices with baffles to block embers. Mesh is not enough!
Eaves and Soffits
Eaves and Soffits with open-eave construction should be inspected.
- Wherever possible enclose open eaves.
- Caulk and plug gaps around exposed rafters and blocking.
Windows can break from the heat, even before a home ignites, allowing burning embers or flames into the home.
- Install or upgrade to multi-pane tempered glass.
- Ensure there is no vegetation or other combustible materials within 5 feet of windows and glass doors.
Siding is vulnerable if exposed to flames or radiant heat for periods of time.
- Inspect all siding. Plug or caulk gaps and joints.
- Maintain 6 inches of vertical noncombustible material between the ground and the start of the siding.
- Replace shingle or shake siding with ignition-resistant materials.
- If a neighboring home or outbuilding is closer than 30 feet, be sure to use noncombustible or ignition-resistant materials.
- Use a noncombustible louvered or self-closing dryer vent cover.
Decks are vulnerable to fires from embers igniting vegetation or materials near or below them.
- Ensure that all combustible items are removed from underneath, on, or next to your deck.
- Put a noncombustible layer between wood decks and siding.
- Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a noncombustible mesh screen.
Rain Gutters should be cleared of leaves and needles that embers can easily ignite.
- Inspect and clean gutters regularly.
- Install a noncombustible gutter guard to reduce accumulated debris.
Garages are especially vulnerable to embers and ash. Embers can enter a garage as easily as dust, potentially igniting a house from the inside.
- Install weather stripping, or gaskets, around and under the garage door to limit ember entry.
- Store all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.
- Know how to operate your garage door when there is no power.
- Fences or gates that connect to structures should use noncombustible materials within 5 feet of the building, to prevent the fence from burning up to the structure.
Driveways and Access Roads
Driveways and access roads should be built and maintained according to state and local codes so that emergency vehicles can safely reach your home.
- Maintain access roads with a minimum of 10 feet of clearance on either side.
- Ensure that all gates can open without power to accommodate emergency equipment.
- Trim overhanging trees up to 15 feet from the ground in order to allow emergency vehicles to pass.
- Make sure your address is reflective and clearly visible from the road.
Water supply can be enhanced by having multiple garden hoses long enough to reach all areas of the structures on your property.
- If you have a pool or well, consider getting a fuel-powered pump.
- Best practice is to provide a 21⁄2-inch water line from a water tank to a standpipe fitted with 11⁄2-inch fire hose fittings coordinated with your local fire department.