Fire science research over the last decade has produced strategies that can help reduce a home's chances of igniting, and fire officials are trying to spread the word in fire-prone areas that these little things are hugely important.
"It hard to provide 100 percent guarantee on anything, but there are a number of things homeowners can do — and a lot of them are small but also important," said
Whether a home makes it through a fire often depends on what is or is not in the zone surrounding it, known as defensible space, as well as the design and materials used in home construction, Quarles said.
Property owners can reduce their risk of wildfire damage by choosing metal roofs over wood shake roofs, for example, keeping flammable materials such as firewood piles away from the home, spacing trees farther apart and by clearing brush from nearby roads.
Increasingly, homeowners and communities are seeing the benefits of such strategies, and they're joining voluntary programs such as the
"Interest is growing as people understand that they actually have a role to play," said
More than 1,000 communities in 41 states are recognized as "firewise" because they're taking steps to prepare their homes from wildfire risks.
Still, that represents a small fraction of the estimated 72,000 communities located in wildfire-prone areas.
Experts say that's because some people don't fully understand wildfire risks, or they don't think it will happen to them. Others only live part-time in second homes in fire country, while some are independent and don't want more regulations or intrusion.
Some governments, however, are incorporating wildfire-prevention strategies into building codes, including the state of
The cost of fighting just one fire — the largest burning in north-central
In July, as that wildfire raged near their forested home south of
Returning to assess the damage two days later, the couple was relieved but not surprised to find that their home and outbuildings had been spared. Flames burned within 50 feet of their home.
The couple credited firefighters, luck and proactive steps they had taken to reduce wildfire risk: clearing brush, thinning trees, keeping their grass low, constructing a metal roof and choosing a rock garden rather than other vegetation near their deck.
The fire was so intense that some homes probably wouldn't have been spared,
"If I protect my place, my neighbors' place is also protected," said Kelly, whose
That doesn't necessarily mean a wildfire won't hit, but it does help, she and others said.
"It's about resilience because we live in a wildfire landscape," said Cook, education and outreach coordinator with the
Firewise Communities: http://firewise.org
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