What can you do now to protect your home from wildfire?
Start with improving your roof.
Wind-blow burning embers
During a wildfire, your roof is the most vulnerable part of your home, as direct flames and wind-blown burning embers can rapidly ignite the roof covering, vegetation, and combustible debris accumulated on the rooftop. Studies have shown that many homes lost in Northern California wildfires were due to burning embers entering attics or crawl spaces through uncovered vents.
Class A fire-rated roofs provide the best defense from wildfire and are required in many areas of the Bay Area, including Marin County, Sonoma County, Napa, and the East Bay. Homes and buildings located within California’s Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) areas are subject to additional requirements and restrictions for protection in these areas determined to be at greater risk of wildfire.
However, Even Class A Fire-Rated Roofs are Vulnerable
All buildings, even those with Class A fire-rated roofs, are vulnerable to ignition during a wildfire. To reduce this risk, it is vital to thoroughly inspect and remediate the vulnerable aspects of your roof.
Essential Wildfire Roof Maintenance
Evaluate the Condition of your Roof
Determine the age and fire rating of your roof. Inspect the surface for signs of wear. An older roof, or one in poor condition may no longer provide the fire-resistant characteristics needed to protect your home during a wildfire. Look for missing shingles or tiles where fire embers could enter your home. Replace these missing roofing components. Please note accessing your roof is dangerous. We advise, for your safety and for the preservation of your roof, to hire a professional roofing contractor.
Note the true fire rating of your roof is dependent upon the integrity of the contractor who installs the system. Improper installation techniques, material substitution or non-compliance of building codes can compromise the fire-rating performance.
Remove Roof Debris
Remove all debris, including leaves and pine needles from your roof. Be vigilant in your cleaning, as these highly combustible materials accumulate in the roof valleys and beneath rooftop equipment where a burning ember could ignite.
Check for debris at the intersection of the roof edge and the vertical walls where burning embers could ignite the exterior siding and roof overhang.
Remove all vegetation, including ivy and other vines that have grown under the eaves and near the roof vents.
Contact your local building department or fire protection district to determine stipulations for ember-protective roof vent covers in your area. Install as instructed. Regularly clean the vents and coverings of accumulated debris.
Cut back all tree branches, shrubs, and other vegetation within ten feet of your house or building. Remove ivy and other vines that have grown on your roof and beneath the roof eaves.
Address unstopped opening at the edge of the roof where embers could enter. Remediate gaps greater than 1/8-inch between the blocking and rafters in open eaves. Tile roofs are especially vulnerable to burning embers due to the accumulation of combustible debris, including bird’s nests and vegetation in open end caps and gaps between the tile and the sheathing. Install “bird stop” tiles on open end caps, and apply mortar to openings.
Skylights and Solar Tubes
Remove accumulated debris on and around skylights. Close all skylights if there is wildfire in your neighborhood.
Thoroughly inspect gutters and remove all debris and vegetation. Install gutter covers or screens as per your local building code stipulations.
For more suggestions to protect your home against wildfire, please visit FireSafe Marin or your local fire protection district.
- Vulnerability of Vent to Wind-blow Embers
- University of California Homeowner’s Wildfire Mitigation Guide
- What is a Fire Safe Roof?
- FireSafe Marin