Embers, coming in contact with flammable material, are a major reason why homes are destroyed during wildfires. Embers, also known as firebrands, are airborne pieces of wood and/or vegetation that can travel more than a mile.
The threat to homeowners is embers being blown in through an uncovered vent on the home or landing on an ignition source located near or inside the house, causing a fire to start.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), homes are becoming more ignitable than the surrounding vegetation. Homes are full of flammable materials—carpets , curtains, furniture, etc.—that are sources of fuel if embers get into the house. Embers that enter through vents can ignite combustible materials in the attic. Homes may burn while the adjacent trees do not.
Here are some tips from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension to help protect against ember caused fires:
- Replace wood shake and shingle roofs with fire-resistant types, such as composition, metal, and tile.
- Plug openings in roof coverings with non-combustible materials.
- Remove pine needles, leaves, branches, bark, and other plant debris from the roof.
- Replace plastic skylights with skylights made of double-pane glass. One of the panes should be tempered glass. Close the skylight when a wildfire is threatening.
- Install approved spark arrestors on chimneys.
- Replace single-pane, non-tempered glass windows with multi-pane, tempered glass windows. Close all windows if a wildfire is threatening.
- Cover attic, eave, and foundation vents with 1/8 inch wire mesh or install new vent types designed to prevent ember entry. If a wildfire is threatening, consider covering vent openings with pre-cut plywood or aluminum foil folded several layers thick and stapled.
- Keep rain gutters free of plant debris.
- Fill gaps in siding and trim materials with a good quality caulk and replace building materials in poor condition.
- Keep firewood stacks and lumber piles at least 30 feet from the house and other buildings.
- Place combustible patio furniture inside the house or garage if a wildfire is threatening.
- Replace deck boards that are less than one inch thick or are in poor condition with thicker, good condition boards. Use metal flashing between the deck and the house.
- Remove plant debris from the gaps between deck boards, the gap between the deck and the house, and on the deck.
- If a wildfire is threatening, remove combustible materials from the porch and deck, including newspapers, wicker baskets, door mats, pine cones, dried flower arrangements, and move barbeque propane tanks inside.
- Remove plant debris, wood piles, and other easily ignited materials from under decks. Consider enclosing the open sides of the deck with siding materials that are properly vented or 1/8 inch wire mesh to reduce maintenance and deter ember entry. Do not use wood lattice to enclose decks.
- Replace wood mulches in flower beds with noncombustible types and remove plant debris, including dried grass and flowers, dead leaves, and dead branches from flower beds next to the house, other buildings, and next to wooden fences.
- Adjust garage doors to achieve as tight a fit as possible with the door frame. Consider using trim around the garage door openings to reduce the size of gap openings. Close the garage door if a wildfire is threatening.
- Use garbage cans covered with tight fitting lids near the house or other buildings. Move paper recycling bins indoors.
- Maintain wooden fences in good condition and create a noncombustible fence section or gate next to the house for at least five feet.