‘With the change in seasons, many Albertans have spring cleaning on their minds and are starting to clean up their yards on their farms or acreages,’ says Laura Stewart, FireSmart specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
‘Some outdoor maintenance activities can be done in the early spring to help protect your home from the damages of wildfire, as we see the wildfire danger rise dramatically in late April and May.’
FireSmart is a series of programs across the country that better allow us to live with and manage the impacts of wildfire on our surroundings. It is a shared responsibility between community members, community leaders, forest companies, industry and government. When it comes to their property, homeowners need to take ownership and action to protect their homes.
Understanding your risk
The first thing to do is walk around your property to identify wildfire risks. Start with the first 1.5 metres (about 5 feet) around the entire home and any attachments, such as decks.
‘What combustible fuels are you keeping closest to your home? You want to keep a special eye out for things like dry leaves, grass and twigs, firewood piles, construction materials, and patio furniture. Whenever possible, you want to move these items at least 10 metres from the home or safely store them in a garage or shed,’ says Stewart.
Embers ignite more than half of homes damaged or destroyed by wildfire. Research has shown that structural modifications, like fire-resistant building materials, can reduce the risk of wildfire damage up to 40%. If you’re making important structural modifications and moving those combustible fuels farther away from your home, you can reduce wildfire risk by up to 75%.
Simple steps that make a big impact
‘Here are some simple actions that homeowners can take to address four key areas of the home. Both immediate, roll-up-your-sleeves maintenance activities and longer-term planning are included.’
Keep the roof clean and clear of combustible debris, such as leaves, twigs and branches. Upgrade roof to a Class A ignition resistant roofing material. Class A roofing materials include clay tile, concrete tile, metal and asphalt shingles.
Siding, vents and openings
Examine siding for locations where embers could accumulate or hide. Inspect vents and openings often to ensure they are in good repair and combustible debris is removed. Stucco, brick, fibre cement boards/panels and poured concrete siding all offer superior fire resistance. Consider upgrading to a non-combustible siding material. Metal products are recommended for vents and vent flashing. Install non-combustible material for all vents and screen with 3 mm screening or fire-rated vents.
Remove combustible debris and vegetation on, around and under decks and other attached structures. This is a key factor in reducing vulnerability to ignition during a wildfire. Select fire-rated composite decking material for the deck and cover the underside of the deck with non-combustible sheathing, such as fibre cement board or metal screening.
Gutters and eaves
Keep gutters and eaves clean and clear of combustible debris, such as leaves, twigs and branches. Upgrade to a boxed-in or soffited eave design that is non-combustible. Upgrade gutters and downspouts to non-combustible materials, such as galvanized steel, copper or aluminum. A metal drip edge should be in place as part of the roof assembly.
‘Stay tuned for FireSmart your spring cleaning part 2 for more tips about how the FireSmart principles apply to the rest of your property,’ says Stewart.
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