Written by Roger Maybee
MADERA COUNTY – Are You Ready for Wildfire? The 2015 fire season here in Eastern Madera County looks dire. The coming fire season appears to be on track to be even more severe than the 2014 season.
A look to the hillsides and one can’t help but notice the dead and dying trees in the landscape. This, along with the fourth year of drought, is contributing to the possibility of a very active fire season for everyone.
Cal Fire has been rated the best fire department in the world. But even Cal Fire cannot protect all the homes that have been built in the Wildland Urban Interface or WUI.
The WUI is the area where homes and structures are located in wild lands and forests. Because this interface is so susceptible to wildfire it is up to individual homeowners to do the best they can to protect themselves from wildfire.
Defensible Space Alone Is Not Enough
Defensible space is the law. Defensible space is designed to protect firefighters trying to protect your home or fighting the wildfire. But defensible space alone is not enough. And there will not be fire personnel available for everyone.
Your home itself is just fuel to a wildfire. Your home and other structures may ignite no matter how much defensible space you have. Your home may ignite even if there are firefighters present.
Ember storms can travel literally miles from a wildfire. This is how “spotting” occurs, a fire jumping over distances. Your home is not exempt. Your home may not be able to withstand the embers.
The Answer Is To Harden Your Home
But, if you harden your home against wildfire, your home may not ignite at all. Then firefighters could spend their time fighting wildfire rather than attempting to defend unprepared homes.
The fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of homes lost to wildfire are ignited by flying embers that land on or in your home or structure.
Many times a domino effect can occur, with the fire jumping from home to home. In some of these cases, the wildfire itself is no longer the threat, but the burning homes become the threat.
Introducing Firewise Madera County
Firewise Madera County can help teach you and your neighbors to thoroughly, and effectively, harden your home against wildfire. You should do this long before the inevitable wildfire strikes.
What Is Firewise Madera County?
Firewise Madera County is the local implementation of a national program of the NFPA called Firewise Communities USA.
Supported by the Madera County Board of Supervisors, Firewise Madera County primarily targets Eastern Madera County areas cited in the Madera County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (MCCWPP).
Firewise Madera County is aimed at protecting WUI lives and property from wildfire through education.
IS YOUR HOME & COMMUNITY FIREWISE?
Are you ready to evacuate? You, your family, your neighbors? Can your home withstand a wildfire? Can your home withstand embers falling on your roof or flying into your attic from miles away?
Yes, from MILES away! Embers have been recorded traveling on wildfire convection columns for several miles.
If your answer is “No” or “I don’t know,” then your home is NOT Firewise.
What Does “Firewise” Mean?
As you would expect, the term “Firewise” simply means anything that is wise, or prepared, regarding wildfire.
The term, as one word, was coined by the NFPA back in the eighties, for fire wise landscaping around homes.
Now, as part of the Firewise Communities USA program, the term is used to mean getting you and your home ready for wildfire, also known as hardening your home.
Being Firewise means that your home, and home ignition zone (HIZ the surrounding area around your home) are treated with regards to wildfire.
Limiting the Spread & Damage of Wildfire
Successful Firewise homes – homes that are hardened against wildfire – means that your home and surrounding area is prepared for wildfire.
Reducing the combustible materials in close proximity on and around your home, while reducing the combustibility of your home itself, prepares your home ignition zone to be able to affect the behavior of any wildfire in a highly desirable way.
When done properly, being Firewise severely limits the conditions necessary for combustion, heat, oxygen and fuel, thus limiting the spread of the wildfire and its potential damage to your home and surrounding area.
Wildfire Is a Series of Ignitions
The fact of the matter is that wildfire isn’t a tsunami like force, a giant wall of living fire, but rather a series of ignitions.
That fact gives you the opportunity to affect how wildfire behaves when approaching your home and surrounding area. Stop the ignitions. Stop the wildfire.
Firewise Means You Are Ready
Being Firewise means you; your family, your home, your home ignition zone, and your neighborhood, are as ready for wildfire as you can be.
You will be fire “wise,” if you have created an emergency preparedness plan for you, your family, and community, and practiced that plan so you are all ready.
You will be fire “wise,” if your home and home ignition zone has been prepared to withstand wildfire as much as possible, effectively limiting the damage and spread of the wildfire.
When you are Firewise, catastrophic wildfires may not be so catastrophic.
Why Be Ready? Peace of Mind
A Firewise home means you will enjoy:
- Readiness to safely evacuate you and your family at a moment’s notice
- Safer and easier evacuation
- Potentially saving your precious family memories and heirlooms
- Better peace of mind: Knowing you have done all you can to prevent wildfire from claiming your home
- Knowing you have provided safer conditions for emergency personnel to help reduce their risk or even provide them with a safe shelter
- The confidence that your home has a good chance to survive in the event of a wildfire
- Higher probability that emergency personnel will defend your home and community if the resources are available
- Higher probability your home will survive if there are no resources to protect your home
- A safer neighborhood during wildfire
- Potentially lower home insurance rates
- Potentially better home financing options
- Potentially being able to get insurance when you may not have otherwise
Firewise Starts at Home
Firewise starts with your emergency preparedness plan, and then moves to your home. Again, to a fire, your home is only more fuel to burn.
Firewise mitigation addresses the Home Ignition Zone through various means. Prepare that zone to deny wildfire the conditions of combustion and you will be ready.
Some of the simple steps you can take to get started follow:
- Routinely remove debris from your roof
- Routinely check gutters for debris & remove the debris
- Never stack firewood near your home
- Remove flammables from under decks
- Keep decks clear of flammables
- Move patio furniture & cushions away from your home
- Close all openings that may allow embers to enter your attic and home
- Replace combustible roofing with noncombustible rated roofing, repair broken shingles, replace vents with ember resistant vents
- Replace plastic gutters with metal gutters that can’t burn
- Enclose and box in your eaves
- Replace vinyl window screens with metal screens
- Replace vinyl windows with wood or metal windows
- Replace combustible siding with non-combustible siding
- Remove combustible materials from direct contact with your home
- Create 3 to 5 feet of non-combustible ground completely around your home & structures
Learn more about the steps you can take to make your home more Firewise here.
There is No Such Thing as a “Safe” Fire
There is no such thing as a safe fire. Even being Firewise, there are no guarantees your home will survive a major fire.
But being Firewise at least you will know you have made every effort to protect you, your family, your home, your community, and emergency personnel, should a wildfire strike.
You will be ready to evacuate everyone safely and easily. And you will leave behind a home and property with the best chance of surviving. You will have as much peace of mind as there can be regarding wildfire.
Take Responsibility & Take Action!
Because there are not enough fire engines to protect every structure, because even herculean efforts don’t always succeed, you have a responsibility to yourself, your family, and your neighbors, to take action to protect your own home & family.
Do this well before a wildfire comes to your neighborhood.
So what’s Next? Let us help you get Firewise!
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Please email Roger Maybee at email@example.com with any questions.
Roger Maybee is the Madera County Firewise Coordinator