How to Reduce the Risk of Wildfire Damage to Your Property
The risk of wildfire damage is very real in our region of Florida. If you have experienced smoke near your home or have seen an actual wildfire, you are most likely wondering just how your homeowners insurance would protect you in case of damage. Contact us if you would like to have a review of your current coverage.
In the meantime, there are things you can do to decrease your risk during wildfire season. Consider these points:
The design and material of a roof can determine its vulnerability to wildfires. To determine whether the roof design increases your risk for damage, access whether debris such as pine needles can accumulate. If so, make sure you are regularly removing this debris; doing so on a frequent basis will make the task less difficult.
If the exterior siding of your property is wood or vinyl, these are known to be combustible. Non-combustible siding includes fiber cement products or exterior rated, fire-retardant treated wood. If your siding is combustible, you could add metal flashing to the base of the walls for protection.
One of the most important protections against wildfires is a Class A fire-rated roof in materials such as asphalt fiberglass composition shingles, concrete or clay tiles, or steel or copper roofs.
Glass Windows and Doors
Windows that are exposed to fire may break after only one to three minutes, depending on the type of glass. Single-pane windows, more common in older structures, are highly vulnerable to breaking. Larger windows are more vulnerable to cracking and breaking from the heat because they have more edge surface.
Dual-pane windows have two sheets of glass and are more resistant to heat. Tempered windows also protect a home from flames and wind blown embers. Replacing single-pane windows and doors with tempered, dual-pane glass also has the added benefit of energy efficiency. Metal screens on the outside of windows adds increased protection to embers as well, but not to flames.
Attic, roof, crawl space, and foundation vents are not something that immediately comes to mind when assessing wildfire risk. But keep in mind that embers entering vents can ignite other materials that are located in these spaces and burn the house from the inside out. A good rule of thumb is that all vents should be covered with 1/8-inch mesh metal screens.
Remember that vents are vulnerable entry points for embers and flames - keep the areas around the foundation vents clear of vegetation accumulation and other combustible substances. Maintain a roof that is clear of vegetative debris such as pine needles and leaves, including the portions near the vents. The last thing you want is debris near your unprotected vents ignited by embers, therefore making it possible for the fire to spread to your interior.
Decks, Patios, and Porches
First of all, you must consider the construction material of your deck, patio, or porch. Is it solid wood or wood plastic composite? Most of these materials are combustible with the exception of those with fire retardant chemicals either incorporated into the composite, or applied to the exterior of the wood. Next, consider the items on and beneath this area, and those items' combustibility.
Enclosing your deck, patio, or porch can add protection against wildfires. Keeping your landscape clear and well maintained against combustible vegetation in the zero to 30 foot zone around your structures also decreases risk. Installing a metal flashing strip between the top of the deck, patio, or porch and the exterior siding, if combustible, can create a barrier. When it is time to replace the deck, porch, or patio, go with a noncombustible or ignition-resistant material.
Defensible Space Zone
Pay special attention to the three zones around your property: adjacent areas, the 30 foot zone, and the zone of at least 100 feet. Each one has its own precautions that relate to the amount of damage that can be inflicted by a fire in these areas. Careful adherence to defensible space zones makes it less likely that a fire burning within the 100 foot zone will reach the adjacent areas of your structure.
Well maintained and spaced vegetation is of paramount concern. Using noncombustible landscaping materials becomes more important as you get closer to the structure. In forested areas, there is a risk that a wildfire could spread to the tops of the trees and if you follow guidelines such as trimming low hanging branches, you can help drive the wildfire to the ground before it reaches your home or business.
Read More About Retrofitting
For more detailed information about protecting your property, download the Wildfire Retrofit Guide for Florida. Mitchell Noel is here for all your personal and commercial insurance needs.