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Hardening Your Home for Fire Safety




California wildfires have been increasing in size and intensity over the past few decades. The loss and damage to real estate in the state has been catastrophic. In 2017 and 2018, insurance companies paid over 26 billion in claims. Last year, with over 3.6 million acres burned, companies paid out approximately 7 billion in claims. Under increased pressure, between 2018 and 2019, insurance companies dropped more than 31% of their policies, including some home policies in the high fire zones along the Arroyo. In 2019, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara stepped in and place a moratorium on any further policy cancellations from mainstream insurance companies.

Commissioner Lara has now proposed instating incentives for retrofitting older homes to make them more fire resistant and establishing state guidelines for home hardening. Home hardening is working with ignition-resistant building materials in key areas of your home, which have been tested by the State Fire Marshall (SFM) Standard 12-7A-5. Researchers are working on a quantifiable set of home hardening standards, so that insurance companies can instate policies to level-out home insurance costs. The plan would be similar to the way car insurers consider safe driving a standard for a reduction in auto insurance.

Embers from a wildfire can destroy a home up to a mile away, so the fire does not have to start in your immediate area to create havoc. With all the permits for remodels out in the city, everyone should be aware of what should be done to harden their home for fire resistance.

A roof is the most vulnerable part of a home. Wood and shingle roofs are high risk. When re-roofing, consider using metal, tile or composition.

Eaves and soffits should be protected with ignition-resistant building material.

Vent openings in your home should be covered with 1/16 to 1/8-inch flame resistant, WUI, metal mesh.

Install dual-pane windows to reduce the chance of breakage due to heat from fire. Consider reducing vegetation outside of large windows.

Homes with wood-siding are highly flammable and have had serious issues with homeowner’s insurance. When remodeling, consider fiber-cement wall siding, fire-treated wood siding, or other ignition-proof materials.

Decks should be built with non-combustible materials, as should patio-covers.

Chimneys should be covered with a non-flammable screen with openings no smaller than 3/8 inch and no larger than 1/2 an inch, to prevent embers from escaping.

Garage openings should have weather stripping and any combustible containers in the garage should be strategically placed and accessible if they need to be removed.

Rain gutters should be cleared of debris.

Brush clearance must be done annually in high fire zones.

We should all have fire extinguishers, buckets, rakes, shovels, and hoses, long enough to reach all structures on your property.

Everyone should have an evacuation plan.

Please go to https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/ for a more in-depth look at fire safety standards, hardening your home, creating a fire safety action plan and more.

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