People love the mountains and woods. Each year, more and more people move deeper into the Canadian wilderness, carving out spaces for their dream homes amid scenes of the breathtaking Canadian landscape. With doing this, they are unwittingly creating something else; an expansion in the wildland-urban interface.
The major problem with this is that it can interfere with the natural cycle of wildfires, which keeps our forested areas healthy over the long term. What takes its place is the unnatural and dangerous build up of old vegetation. This can fuel catastrophic, uncontrollable wildfires that can threaten property and more importantly lives.
There are three ways a fire can damage a home: through radiated heat, firebrands (burning materials that can be carried more than a kilometer by convection forces and/or wind) and the convection column itself. In talking about wildfire mitigation, we want to provide you with steps that you can take with your home and around your property that may help prevent or reduce the damage from a wildfire.
There are many things to keep in mind to mitigate the risk, whether you are building a new home or retrofitting an existing one.
Incorporate fire resistant materials into your home whenever it is possible. This can include but is not limited to using metal, tile or asphalt composite shingles for the roofing and non flammable exterior wall materials such as concrete masonry, plaster, brick or stucco.
Important Note: although aluminum and vinyl siding are not considered flammable materials, they can lose their integrity when exposed to high heat.
An astonishing fact that many people are unaware of is that radiated heat can ignite combustible materials from more than 100 feet away. Opt for dual or multi pane, tempered glass versions over single pane windows, especially for large windows and sliding glass doors that face the wind land.
A wood fence around your property can also be replaced with a noncombustible version such as metal, concrete, or stone; keep it free of climbing vines, weeds, or other vegetation.
In the case that your siding is combustible or not fire rated, make sure there are no spaces for embers to accumulate within. You may want to add caulk to spots where the trim to siding has failed.
Following the roof, the eaves, windows, soffits, and vents are the weakest links in the event of a fire. Avoid all materials that will melt such as vinyl or PVC. Consider adding metal mesh screens to all vents. This will aid in keeping sparks out. Make sure you weather seal the perimeter of your garage door as this will help protect any flammable materials stored inside.
You will need to ensure that your decks and porches all extend over a flat grade. Interestingly, a fire can move upslope many times faster than it can on a level surface. If you need a deck that extends over a slope, consider using a non combustible material such as Trex.
It is important that your chimney extends over the roof line; equip it with a spark arrestor, also known as a chimney guard or chimney screen. These steps will help ensure that you don't cause the next wildfire by accidently igniting your roof or nearby trees or vegetation.
It is important to keep your roof, gutters and vents clears of debris at all times. Firebrands can quickly cause dried-out organic matter to ignite and spread to vulnerable areas on your house such as vents, eaves and your roof. Ensure that all smoke detectors are working in your home as well as you have fire extinguishers on every floor of your home. Make sure you know how to use the extinguishers so you can jump into action if need be.
If there was an interruption in electricity could you maintain your water supply? You may want to consider purchasing a generator to operate your pump in the event of a power failure.
There are many people in high risk areas that recognize the risk their surroundings can pose. These people do everything they can to try to mitigate that risk, for themselves and also for the sake of the fire fighters that will have to battle these wildfires. There is no guarantee that these measures will save your home in the event of a wildfire, but they may improve the chances of minimizing the damage your home sustains.