resilience against forest fires
Our house doesn’t lie on any fault lines,and I think it would have to be Noah’s flood for us to suffer water damage, but one natural disaster that is a legitimate threat in our area is forest fires. There was a time within the last decade when evacuation warnings were issued to homeowners in this area, and some homes did burn down. There could come a time when the entire city would have to evacuate (it’s a smaller city, but nevertheless).
What are some ways to become more resilient for this type of emergency? I’ve heard of installing sprinkler systems on the roof, coating your house in a fire proof gel, and other ideas, but I would be interested to hear what the forum would recommend for resilience against forest fires.
skyfall, I think depending on your situation a pond nearby might be warranted. That would give you a locally controlled source of water and if positioned right could be a natural fire break. I would imagine in a wide spread emergency water-rights might be limited due to demand and officials sequestering what's available to protect what they deem as most valuable (probably doesn't include your house). You would want to make an investment in a pumping system to keep the house wet when at risk. The problem is you would have to stick around during the fire to protect it and that tends to be how people get hurt.
Another option that might be available is intumescent coatings. I do some work with companies who produce them for commercial applications, but I honestly don't know if they exist for residential paint. Basically it is a paint that reacts to heat by forming a fireproof barrier significantly slowing the fire and reducing the damage to the actual structure. They use them on bridges and other critical structures. Might be worth researching.
The wildfire situation throughout the western US is certainly getting worse. I'm not sure exactly where you are at but if it is California this year has the potential to be an especially bad fire season. Several states have plans (e.g. Firewise) for how to make your property and home more defensible from wildfires.
and a nicely organized 25 item list here
I was out in the areas burned in Hobart, Tasmania (Australia) last year and there were many homes burned to the ground even though all of the trees and bushes near the house were unburned. Often what causes the house fire to start is a blizzard of embers that rain down around the house even if the fire front doesn't directly impact your neighborhood. Try not to have leaves in your gutters or eves where embers can blow into.
I am not sure what kind of ecosystem that your home is sitting in or what kind of topography your on so I am not certain if you would even want to consider a 'stay and defend' strategy.
In my younger days, I did a few years of wildfire fire fighting. Some lessons I learned include:
1) If the wind is blowing, there is nothing anyone can do – get out fast. The harder the wind blows, the faster you need to evacuate.
2) The gov't will go to great lengths to save structures, but there is only such much fire protection resources to go around. In reality, protecting your house is up to you and your community.
3) You truly need to take protective measures well before a fire event. Once the flames start roaring, it is too late to take effective action other than evacuation.
Some things I would suggest:
1) Get involved or at least communicate with your local fire fighting folks (ie rural volunteer fire fighters, city fire fighters, Forest Service/BLM/National Park/state dept of natural resources, etc). They will know about the local conditions and have good information as to the best way to protect your property and home.
2) Create and maintain a defensible space around your home/structures. There is a lot of good info out there about what this means, but essentially you want to remove most/all fuel for a fire, and keep clear, a space around your home. Do this as if your life depends on it.
3) Assuming you do have local (and maybe federal) fire protection services, make sure your access point (ie driveway) is clear and accessible by emergency vehicles. Also make sure that your address is clearly visible from the point where your driveway exits the city/county/state road.
4) If you live in a rural area with few neighbors and lots of trees, work on thinning your trees to reduce the fuel load and help keep the standing trees healthy.
5) If you live in a relatively less rural area (higher density of homes), be sure to work with your neighbors and the community to get everyone around you to take wild fire and wild fire protection seriously. You can have excellent fire protection measures at your house, but if you neighbors do not, your risk goes way up.
6) Prepare an evacuation plan ahead of time, know your escape routes, practice your plan regularly.
7) Some building designs and materials are more fire resistant than others. Where possible, rework your structures to incorporate fire resistant design and materials. Your local fire protection folks can help you get information on this.
… a little bit more…
Some city/county Building Depts have a fire inspector on staff. This person will be an expert on structural fires, not wild fires, but they should be able to help you identify fire resistant designs, building materials, as well as other steps you can take, to protect your structures.
8) Firewise is an excellent program. If your community is doing it, get involved. If your community isn't doing it, suggest that they do.
9) Be proactive. Keep your eyes and ears open for potential fire danger. Deal with issues as early on as possible, because once a fire is ripping, it is way harder to get it stopped.
Good luck, Sirocco
We live in the deep woods. For several year after we moved here we weren't even in a fire district. During those years we fought three fires on our neighbors land. That taught me to be very afraid of wild fires. I like to think of that as constructive terror lol. These are the things we learned and implemented. First ponds are expensive and take permits and who knows what else, but you can buy a tank from two hundred gallon (which is pretty small) to a thousand gallon which is about 4 feet around by about 6 feet high. Then you can buy a gas powered water pump from Harbor Freight for around 200 dollars. We called around to fire stations and asked about used fire hose and the second one we called gave us a pickup load of their old ones and were happy first to have us be proactive and second to get rid of the hoses. They weren't perfect and some had leaks but we duct taped the leaks and they worked fine. We've had them quite a few years now.
Another thing we did was get an old one ton truck (did I say old lol) then we put a 300 gallon tank on it and set the pump and hose on the bed and made our own fire truck. Last but certainly not least there is a company called Universal Fire Shield that sells really great products that will fire proof almost anything. I saw it on the news probably 15 years ago and got some and have been using it ever since. I think it's pretty cost effective.
Hope this is useful for someone.