With more wildfires raging across the West, it’s not only homes that are being burned to the ground. Hundreds of business owners have seen their facilities succumb to the flames.
If you have a business in an area at risk of wildfires, just like homeowners, you need to take steps to reduce your exposure and perhaps save your facilities in case a fire encroaches.
Buildings survive wildfire through a combination of:
- Careful landscape selection, placement and maintenance.
- Removing combustible materials on the property (such as dry debris and leaves and wooden fixtures or furniture) during your fire season.
- Using fire-resistant construction materials.
Disastersafety.org recommends that businesses in wildfire-prone areas:
Maintain a defensible space
The first step in wildfire prevention is creating and maintaining a defensible space around your property. You can think of this space as three zones:
Zone 1 (zero to 5 feet) — The zone should be designed and maintained to keep fire or embers from igniting materials in this area and spreading fire to your building. Ensure nearby debris, dry leaves and pine needles, and dead plant material do not accumulate in this zone.
Also, use hardscape like gravel, pavers, concrete and other noncombustible mulch materials in this zone. The best practice is to have no vegetation in the area, but if you want to have shrubbery and other plants, select ones with low combustibility characteristics such as high moisture content, low oil or resin content, deep roots with thick heavy leaves, and minimal production of dead vegetation.
Zone 2 (5 to 30 feet) — Trees and taller vegetation should be well-maintained, and separated from the house and each other. Remove vegetation under trees to prevent fire from climbing to the top of the trees.
Prune mature trees up to 6-10 feet from the ground. Landscaping in this area should include low growing, open-structured, less resinous, higher moisture content plants.
Zone 3 (30 to 100 feet) — If you have grass, mow it down to a maximum height of 4 inches. Remove or dispose of tree needles or leaves, remove dead trees, thin out small trees and shrubs creating islands of vegetation, and limb and prune mature trees up to 6-10 feet. Thin mature trees so that canopies do not touch.
Check fire hydrants
Ensure fire hydrants are located no more than 250 feet from the primary buildings and are connected to a reliable public or private water source.
Consider exterior walls
Select exterior wall cladding made of noncombustible siding materials such as concrete and brick. Ensure the bottom of the siding is no higher than 6 inches from the ground.
Choose the right windows
Use dual-paned windows made with tempered glass. For windows that can open, install screens to cover sections that can open. Always close windows when wildfire threatens.
Cover your vents
Install ⅛-inch noncombustible mesh screening over all vents to prevent embers from entering through them.
Clean and use noncombustible materials for roof and gutters
This should be done on a regular basis, particularly during the summer months and during fire season. Remove debris, which can be ignited by wind-blown embers, from roof and gutters.
Install gutters and downspouts made of noncombustible materials such as aluminum.
The gutters should incorporate an integral metal flashing at the roof edge, or a separate flashing should be used at the roof edge.
Select roof covers with a Class A fire rating.
Use noncombustible materials for all signage