House Hunting in a Wildfire Prone Area? Here's What You Need to Know About Wildfire Protection.

Fireproofing is a bit of a misnomer. Generally speaking, you can’t really fireproof anything. If you’re a homebuyer on the hunt for property in arid, wildfire-prone parts of the country, it’s important to keep this in mind. That log cabin you’ve dreamt about? It’ll be at risk regardless of how many emergency sprinklers and smoke detectors you install.

Still, there are more than a few common-sense landscaping and remodeling tips you can implement to protect your future property from fire damage. In wildfire-prone areas, there’s hope for homeowners yet. Just be sure to heed these essential recommendations for wildfire protection.

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Install fire-resistant shingles for wildfire protection

Hypothetical Homebuyer #1: “Roofs are invulnerable to fire—the flames aren’t going to jump two stories! I should focus on protecting the siding to my house, right? That’s the most vulnerable part of my home.”

Wrong.

In a wildfire situation, roofs are perhaps the most vulnerable to catching fire, even if the flames aren’t near your property at all. Roofs offer plentiful surface area for airborne sparks and embers to alight, and if your shingles aren’t fire resistant, you’re in big trouble. Metal, clay, and fiberglass are among your best options for fire-resistant roofing materials, so be sure to install them if they aren’t already in place.

Maintain a healthy buffer zone around your property

Hypothetical Homebuyer #2: “Good, fire-resistant building materials are the only things that will prevent my house from being destroyed, should a wildfire come blazing through. I don’t need to worry about landscaping or other things like that—they have no impact on my home’s vulnerability.”

Wrong again!

While fire-resistant building materials—like the various types of materials mentioned above—are vital, the landscaping choices you make around your home can make a huge impact your home’s susceptibility to fire. Here are some common-sense steps you can take that will spruce up your yard and diminish the likelihood of a fire crossing it to destroy your home.

  1. Clear your yard regularly of any fallen plant matter or dried debris that could serve as fuel during a wildfire situation—this includes tree limbs, leaves, and dead grass
  2. Keep your lawn well irrigated, particularly during the warmer months; fire will have a more difficult time crawling along moist ground than it will dry earth
  3. Tree branches below the ten-foot mark should be pruned; trunks are more fire resistant than branches, which can spread flames to larger tree limbs, causing cause serious damage as they drop

Avoid buying (or building) within “natural chimney” areas

Hypothetical Homebuyer #3: “When it comes to homes and wildfire safety, location doesn’t matter. If I live in a wildfire prone area, my home will be vulnerable regardless of where it’s located. I don’t need to bother finding or building a house in a more ‘safe’ part of town.”

Wrong for a third time. Sheesh! These hypothetical homebuyers need to do their research.

There are certain topographical features in a landscape that encourage the transfer of heat, and—as a result—the transfer of fire. Naturally, proximity to these topographical features is something you’d want to avoid at all costs. Narrow canyons and valleys are notorious for functioning as “natural chimneys,” and are not advisable places to buy or build homes, especially if your area is known for wildfires.

Hills and slopes, while ideal for the vista-loving sort, are a recipe for disaster in this regard as well. Heat rises, and your slight elevation—rather than protecting you from the incoming flames—actually puts you more at risk, as the energy from the flames travels upward and can easily leap toward your property.

So, remember, that beautiful mountain home isn't off limits. You just need to be sure you're being smart about protecting it from wildfire.