Unclutter the gutter

Dried leaves in gutters are easily flammable

CLEAR THE WAY Remove all dried leaves, pine needles or other materials from rain gutters before fire season.

No matter where you live, the most common reason homes burn during a wildfire is because embers land on something easily ignitable around the home. Remove leaves and pine needles from your rain gutters. Make changes now to reduce the ember threat to your home.  

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.

Most of the activity that makes a home less vulnerable to ignition focuses on the home and its immediate surroundings. The Ember Aware campaign is intended to educate people on the risks of ember cast and the actions they can take to reduce those risks, to encourage residents to harden their homes against embers and/or to maintain those ember-resistant features, and to practice ember-safe housekeeping and landscaping. 

For information, visit www.emberaware.com.

Tip No. 2: Unclutter the gutter

Rain gutters attached to the edge of your roof are perfect for catching embers during wildfire. Burning embers can land in the gutters, and if they are filled with dried leaves, pine needles and twigs, a fire can start and possibly ignite the roof, roof sheathing and fascia. Even houses with fire-rated roofs are vulnerable to this type of ember attack. Rain gutters made of vinyl will melt and drop into flower beds, igniting plants next to the house and maybe even combustible siding. 

To keep your home safe, we suggest that you:

• Remove all dried leaves, pine needles or other materials from your rain gutters before fire season. Over the winter, debris often accumulates in them.

• Keep a ladder handy and check your rain gutters throughout the fire season, cleaning them out as necessary.

• If a wildfire is approaching and there is no time to clean out the debris, plug the rain gutter downspout with a tennis ball or something similar so that the rain gutter fills with water.

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.