Get Ready!

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GET YOUR PROPERTY READY

Being ready for a wildfire starts with creating and maintaining an adequate defensible space around your residence and by hardening your home by using fire resistant building materials.  Defensible space is the buffer you create by installing and maintaining fire-safe landscaping around your house.  This buffer helps to keep the fire away from your home.  Hardening your home means using construction materials that can help your home withstand flying embers finding weak spots in the construction, which can result in your house catching fire.  It takes the combination of defensible space and the hardening of your home to give your house the best chance of surviving a wildfire.

See below for more information on Defensible Space, Hardening Your Home, and Fire Resistant Landscaping.

CREATE AND MAINTAIN DEFENSIBLE SPACE

Creating defensible space is essential to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire.  Defensible space is the buffer you create between your house and the grass, trees, shrubs, or wildland area surrounding it.  This area is where firefighters will stand to protect your house from embers or flames and is needed for the safety and protection of the firefighters defending your home.

If you are a homeowner within an approved Hazard Reduction Zone, please review the Newport Beach Fire Department guideline “G.01 - Hazard Reduction Zones”.  This guideline provides information about the required maintenance for those parcels designated in a Hazard Reduction Zone or a High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (HFHSZ).

INSTALL AND MAINTAIN FIRE-SAFE LANDSCAPING

To prevent a wildfire from transferring from the wildland interface into your home or community, it is imperative that you break up the vegetation located within 100 feet of your home.  By separating your vegetation, you are preventing the transfer of fire into the community and giving your house a fighting chance to protect itself against a wind-driven wildfire.  The primary area to focus on is the first 30-feet around your home.  The secondary area to focus on is from 30-100-feet from your home.

Embers and low intensity fire against the structure are the primary ways that homes ignite during a wildland fire.  Embers are burning pieces of wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind, which can cause spot fires and ignite homes, debris, and other objects.

Experiments, models, and post-fire studies have shown homes ignite due to the condition of the home and everything around it, up to 100’ from the foundation.  This area is called the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ).  Following the steps listed below will help minimize or stop the transfer of fire to your house.

The Home Ignition Zone is divided into three separate zones.

  1. Immediate Zone

    This is the area from 0-5 feet from the house, immediately next to the structure.  This zone is designated as a non-combustible area.  Science tells us this is the most important zone to take immediate action on, as it is the most vulnerable to ember ignition.  START WITH THE HOUSE ITSELF then move into the landscaping section.

    • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris, and pine needles that could catch embers.
    • Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
    • Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8 inch metal mesh screening.
    • Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal mesh screening to reduce embers.
    • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows.
    • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
    • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.
  2. Intermediate Zone

    This is the area from 5-30 feet from the house, adjacent to the Immediate Zone.  Employing careful landscaping or creating fuel breaks helps influence and decrease fire behavior.

    • Clear vegetation from under large stationary objects.
    • Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.
    • Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four to six inches.
    • Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns.  Prune trees up to six to ten feet from the ground.  For shorter trees, do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.
    • Trees shall be horizontally spaced three times the size of the mature canopy.
    • Tree placement should be planned to ensure the mature canopy is no closer than ten feet to the edge of the structure.
    • Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape.
    • Trees shall be maintained (pruned, laced out, and limbed up) to provide vertical and horizontal separation between other fuels. 
  3. Extended Zone

    This is the area from 30-100 feet from the house, adjacent to the Intermediate Zone.  The goal here is not to eliminate fire but to interrupt its path and keep flames smaller and on the ground.

    • Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.
    • Remove dead plant and tree material.
    • Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.
    • Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.
    • Trees shall be horizontally spaced three times the size of the mature canopy.
    • Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape.
    • Trees shall be maintained (pruned, laced out, and limbed up) to provide vertical and horizontal separation between other fuels.

HARDEN YOUR HOME

Flying embers can destroy homes up to a mile from a wildfire.  Harden your home now before a fire starts by using ember-resistant building materials.

Here are some things you can do to harden your home and make it more fire resistant.

Roof

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.  Build your roof or re-roof with materials such as composition, metal or tile.  Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching.

Vents

Vents on homes create openings for flying embers.

Cover all vent openings with 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch metal mesh.  Do not use fiberglass or plastic mesh because they can melt and burn.

Protect vents in eaves or cornices with baffles to block embers (mesh is not enough).

Eaves and Soffits

Eaves and soffits should be protected with ignition-resistant* or non-combustible materials.

Windows

Heat from a wildfire can cause windows to break even before the home ignites. This allows burning embers to enter and start fires inside. Single-paned and large windows are particularly vulnerable.

Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breakage in a fire.

Consider limiting the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation.

Walls

Wood products, such as boards, panels or shingles, are common siding materials. However, they are combustible and not good choices for fire-prone areas.

Build or remodel your walls with ignition resistant* building materials, such as stucco, fiber cement, wall siding, fire retardant, treated wood, or other approved materials.

Be sure to extend materials from the foundation to the roof.

Decks

Surfaces within 10 feet of the building should be built with ignition-resistant*, non-combustible, or other approved materials.

Ensure that all combustible items are removed from underneath your deck.

Rain Gutters

Screen or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris.

Patio Cover

Use the same ignition-resistant* materials for patio coverings as a roof.

Chimney

Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a non-combustible screen. Use metal screen material with openings no smaller than 3/8-inch and no larger than 1/2-inch to prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.

Garage

Have a fire extinguisher and tools such as a shovel, rake, bucket, and hoe available for fire emergencies.

Install weather stripping around and under the garage door to prevent embers from blowing in.

Store all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources.

Fences

Consider using ignition-resistant* or non-combustible fence materials to protect your home during a wildfire.

Driveways and Access Roads

Driveways should be built and maintained in accordance with state and local codes to allow fire and emergency vehicles to reach your home.  Consider maintaining access roads with a minimum of 10 feet of clearance on either side, allowing for two-way traffic.

Ensure that all gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate emergency equipment.

Trim trees and shrubs overhanging the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass.

Address

Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road.

Water Supply

Consider having multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach all areas of your home and other structures on your property. If you have a pool or well, consider getting a pump.

*Ignition-resistant building materials are those that resist ignition or sustained burning when exposed to embers and small flames from wildfires. Examples of ignition-resistant materials include “non-combustible materials” that do not burn, exterior grade fire-retardant-treated wood lumber, fire-retardant-treated wood shakes and shingles listed by the State Fire Marshal (SFM) and any material that has been tested in accordance with SFM Standard 12-7A-5.