Keep wildfire protection in mind when remodeling or building homes

Using fire resistant home construction materials can greatly reduce the chances of losing structures to fire.

Fall fire season is rapidly approaching. This spring, Michigan’s 2012 fire season had almost three times more wild fire events then for the whole preceding year. Based on this history and record high summer temperatures throughout the region, homeowners should anticipate an active fall wildfire season this year.

Taking into consideration the longer response times fire crews have to deal with to get to the remote locations some homeowners have chosen for their homes, structures may be lost before help arrives. Owners need to take measures themselves to reduce the chances their homes and structures will be lost in the event of a wildfire in their area.

The national Firewise Communities program has several suggestions for homeowners to consider in helping reduce the chances of a structure loss in the event of a wildfire in their area. These suggestions include establishing a safe defensible zone around structures, allowing for emergency vehicle access, tree spacing and pruning and along with other suggestions, using fire resistant building materials.

The radiant heat from fire can cause windows to crack and burst allowing embers to enter buildings and start materials such as drapery and carpets ablaze. Establishing a defensible zone around structures will help reduce the chances of windows failing, however upgrading window material will add extra protection. Double pane windows provide more protection than single pane and installing tempered glass will increase protection by almost four times.

Upgrading roofing materials is another action homeowners can take to provide additional protection. Although, in general, most asphalt roofing provides some degree of fire resistance, installing “Class A” rated roofing materials will give owners the greatest level of protection. Steel roofs are another safer material to consider.

Siding material can be upgraded to reduce the chances of combustion. Cement, plaster, stucco, stone, brick and concrete block all provide better fire protection than vinyl or wood siding. Screen on vent openings and rain gutters can help prevent accumulation of combustible leaves and needles as well as block burning embers from getting in.

For more construction suggestions as well as links to other information to help protect your homes visit the Michigan State University Firewise web site.