Reduce deck danger

Decks of all materials are vulnerable to embers

HIGH RISK Decks can contribute to the wildfire threat to your home.

By Dwight Good

Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a series of articles on wildfire preparation.

Will your home survive when the embers arrive? Wind-driven embers ignite many of the homes destroyed by wildfire. Your home could be at risk! Be ember aware and make changes to reduce the threat to your home. Remove leaves and pine needles from your rain gutters, chuck that firewood, and clean out debris from under your deck. You can learn more at

Most people believe that wildfires ignite homes through direct contact with flames, but it is rare to have a home ignite this way. Flaming brands and embers can travel a mile or more ahead of the active front of a wildfire and up to 60 percent of wildland/urban interface home ignitions result from embers.

Tip #4: Deck danger

Decks are one of the parts of your home that are vulnerable to embers during wildfire. This applies to decks comprised of wood boards as well as those made from plastic and wood-plastic composite deck boards. If your deck ignites, the flames can ignite your combustible siding, break the glass on an adjacent window or sliding glass door, or climb to the eave and burn into your attic. If you have a deck and live in a high fire hazard area, you should consider the following:

• Keep the gaps between deck boards free of pine needles, leaves and other debris. This tip also applies to intersection between your deck and your house. Embers can become lodged in the gaps and ignite the deck. Also, don’t allow fallen pine needles and other dead plant material to accumulate on the deck surface during fire season.

• The area underneath the deck is particularly susceptible to ember attack. Don’t store firewood, gas cans, lawn mowers, cardboard or other combustible materials under the deck and keep it free of weeds, pine needles and leaves. Consider enclosing the deck with solid skirting, such as siding that is properly vented, or with 1/8-inch wire mesh to limit ember penetration and reduce maintenance. Don’t enclose it with wooden lattice.

• Rotted or otherwise poor condition wood is more easily ignited by embers than wood in good condition. Replace deteriorated wooden deck boards and posts with new ones. 

• Install metal flashing between the deck and the side of the house. Be sure the flashing is installed to allow proper drainage of water.

• If wildfire is threatening, remove combustible materials from the deck, including newspapers and magazines, baskets, door mats, dried flower arrangements, and place them inside the house or garage. Propane tanks should be placed at a distance of 30 feet or more from the house.

Decks can contribute to the wildfire threat to your home. Take steps now to reduce the deck danger.

Fire Marshal Dwight Good, MS, EFO, serves the Morgan Hill Fire Department, South Santa Clara County Fire Protection District and CAL FIRE Santa Clara Unit. He has 24 years of fire service experience. For questions or comments, email [email protected] or call 408.310.4654.