With 1.8 million acres burning over the past year, 2018 was the worst in recorded history for California. A new federal report concluded that “California accounted for the highest number of structures lost in one state in 2018: 17,133 residences, 703 commercial/mixed residential structures and 5,811 minor structures.”
Many of us remember the 2016, 4,474-acre Loma Fire which displaced hundreds near the Loma Prieta ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains and destroyed 12 homes in about a week. In general, widespread wildfires are relatively rate in Santa Cruz County, however homes in the Santa Cruz mountains are most susceptible to wildfire damage should a fire break out. The good news is that there are certain precautions that you can take to reduce your home’s susceptibility to catching fire.
Clear Vegetation From Your Home’s Perimeter
Ideally, you should put a hundred feet of incombustible material between your home and surrounding vegetation using patios, driveways, or low-growing fire-retardant plants.
Most vegetation near your home will serve as fuel for an approaching fire, however some plants are more flammable than others. “Firewise” plants are those that are fire-resistant and may even prevent the spread of fire. Examples of firewise plants are succulents and other low-growing plants that cover the ground. There are many species of such plants that are native to the Santa Cruz area and can serve as an effective barrier to fire spread.
On the other hand, shrubs, woody vines, and trees are examples of highly flammable plants, and should be used sparingly around your home.
What if you have a big beautiful redwood outside of your house? These trees are generally fire resistant, but the debris that they create will serve as fuel for a fire. If there is a redwood around your house, take extra care to clean up the debris.
Your Roof and Siding – Use Fire Resistant Materials
If you own your home for more than a decade, chances are you’ll need to replace your roof. When the time comes, consider using Class A, fire resistant roofing materials.
If you think it may be time to replace your home’s siding, this is also an opportunity to replace older, more flammable materials with fire resistant ones.
Check out this recourse to learn more about fire resistant roofing and siding materials.
Windows are the weakest part of a building, and during a wildfire, weak or old windows may be the difference between fire getting into your house or not. There are a number of things you can do to make your windows more fire resistant:
- Replace single pane windows with double or triple pane glass.
- Consider installing tempered glass. Tempered glass is glass that has been heat-treated and is about four times stronger than regular glass.
- If you are considering replacing window framing, use a more fire resistant material like steel.
For more tips on how to improve your home’s fire-safety, take a look at FEMA’s checklist for homeowners to avoid wildfire damage.
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