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Top Reasons Homes Fall Prey to Wildfires

One out of every four calls to fire departments nationwide has to do with brush fires or forest fires, Michele Steinberg of the National Fire Protection Association told attendees Tuesday at the Land Use, Property Rights, and Environment forum during the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo in Washington, D.C.

Read more: 43% of Homes at High Natural Disaster Risk

That’s an alarming figure, especially as we head into wildfire season. While the number of these fires isn’t necessarily on the rise, Steinberg said, they’re getting bigger in size and putting more homes in peril. Steinberg offered the top risks that make homes vulnerable to fires and what can be done to make them safer.

  • Flying embers and fragments of burning wood. In a large fire, embers blowing in the wind can make their way inside a home through cracks and crevices in windows, foundations, and walls. “Imagine hundreds of homes being exposed to these embers at one time, and your fire department only has 10 trucks,” Steinberg said. Home owners should have the exterior of their home checked for any of these cracks and have them sealed.
  • Ground fire. Large areas of grass and vegetation fuel a fire. Homes where the grass comes right up to the structure are at an increased risk of catching fire. There should be a five-foot buffer zone between the house and any brush, plants, or grass. Encourage home owners to build out there gardens away from the house.
  • Radiant heat. In the largest and most dangerous wildfires, trees that are consumed by large flames put out such scorching temperatures that the heat alone can set a nearby house on fire. Roofs in particular are vulnerable to this heat. Steinberg suggests that when it’s time to replace a roof, home owners should make sure contractors use newer fire retardant material. It’s also best that communities develop policies that large trees be more spread out and further away from residential structures.

—Graham Wood, REALTOR® Magazine

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online (http://realtormag.realtor.org), May 11, 2016, with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

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