Protecting Buildings From Wildfire

Some helpful pointers from Ed Scott:

There are ways to help protect buildings from wildfire.  While there are no guaranteed ways to prevent a Santa Ana wind whipped wildfire from burning a home or barn, the success rates using the following techniques are quite impressive.

Many years ago my Dad worked as the Radio Officer for the City of Glendale in Southern California.  The Bellaire fire was an early, classic Southern California wildfire.  It burned many expensive homes.  Dad had a copy of the report on it because he contributed material on synchronized communications.  Aerial photos in the report told an important wildfire truth.  Nearly every home that had a Spanish tile roof survived relatively intact.  Nearly every home in the fire’s path that had a shake or composite roof burned down.  Here in northern New Mexico, metal roofs are a part of “Northern New Mexico Style” and offer similar protection.  An adobe or simulated adobe (SuperAdobe, Earthbag, concrete block with adobe stucco) barn with a tile or metal roof will likely survive a wildfire.  But it is important to consider that animals inside might perish because of smoke from the fire. Anyone living where wildfires occur should have Class A Fire Resistive roof on all important buildings.

A group of New Mexico Firefighters started a business named Firestop LLC.  They sell products to protect homes from wildfire.  The main one is Baricade which is a Fire Block Gel like professional fire fighters use.  It is sprayed on homes before evacuating and is quite effective.  They also sell pumps and hoses for applying it.  Contact info: 505-237-2254 or 866-828-1805, Firestop, PO Box 14917, Albuquerque, NM 87191, firestop@comcast.net   I have seen similar home fire fighting material from a firefighter in Southern California but cannot locate it right now.  His is a hand push cart with powerful gas engine-pump and hose.  It is intended for people with swimming pools who have access to lots of fire fighting water.  His uses the fire fighting foam too.

I have been putting together a list of FireWise plants to use in landscaping for our future home.  My lists has plants that do well at 5000 to 9000 foot elevations so will not be that useful elsewhere.  The Forest Home Fire Safety documents by F.C. Dennis are some of the most authoritative on this subject:

Any local Extension service should be able to tell which plants are better in wildfire areas – greater water content, etc.  There are no completely fireproof plants but some catch and spread fire more slowly so are much safer.  Landscaping with kindling is foolish.

It is possible to create land, barns and homes that are safer in the face of wildfire and increase the probability of reducing damages.  But wind whipped wildfires are horrific engines of destruction and there will always be great risk.

Your efforts are useful.  The California wildfires show how important it is to prepare to avoid the risks of fire.

Ed Scott