Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a series of articles on wildfire preparation.
By Dwight Good
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. Make changes now to reduce the ember threat to your home. Clean out debris from under your deck, and move wood piles away from your house.
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.
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. You can learn more at www.emberaware.com.
Tip #3: Chuck that wood
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck? If he lived in one of California’s high fire hazard areas, he should chuck all of it at least 30 feet from his home.
One of the most common ember hazards homeowners create is the placement of firewood stacks next to their home. During a wildfire, hundreds of burning embers could become lodged within the stack. The dry, high winds that often accompany wildfire can fan the embers and cause ignition. Once burning, the firewood stack can jeopardize just about any home, regardless of construction material, because of its ability to ignite combustible siding, provide a flaming exposure to windows and break the glass, or climb to the eave and possibly enter into the attic.
Firewood should be stored at least 30 feet from the house, deck and other structures during fire season. If the firewood stack is located uphill, make sure burning logs won’t roll downhill and ignite the home. Don’t place the stack under tree branches or adjacent to wood fences that are connected to the house.
Don’t let your firewood stack be the kindling for your house fire.
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.