While we've entered the months that many identify as wildfire season, the truth is, wildfire season is year-round. Large fire events of natural or manmade causes are prone around the world and throughout the US at any given time, but it is at this point during the year that risks are at their highest in certain parts of the US, namely California and other West Coast states. In general, fire risks do spike within the US between the Fall to Winter months with increased electrical consumption and heating usage. However, wildfires are of a different nature and usually a consequence of different variables. Understanding these variables and implementing some simple and some more in-depth preventive measures can help reduce risks of wildfire exposure in susceptible areas.
Within the scope of California, wildfire risks peak during the late summer to early fall months, as the potential fuel for fires is more abundant. With the combination of higher temperatures and low rainfall participation from spring, dried out brush, trees, and other vegetation become prime wildfire kindle and allow the spread of fires to run out of control quickly. These fires can be ignited by natural means, but data gathered by the US Forest Service Research Data Archive shows that nearly 85% are manmade. Once active, wildfires are assumed to spread solely by encroaching ground fire, but it primarily spreads through airborne embers. Wind can carry embers up to distances of a mile, affecting areas far beyond the fire's origin. This is the main transmission of wildfires to businesses and homes. Embers will accumulate in the corners of sloped roofs, ignite vegetation alongside structures, or even enter structures through building envelope penetrations.
A simple evaluation and retrofit of vulnerabilities can greatly reduce the risk of fires spreading. Critical areas to review in creating a more resilient property include defensible space, building codes, and building materials. Defensible space is defined as ensuring the immediate space surrounding a structure is clear of debris, neglected landscape vegetation, flammable decorative accents, and other potential fuel sources. By eliminating what embers can catch on fire near a structure, the risk of a ground fire starting and spreading to a building is greatly reduced. Depending on the state, building codes and required materials vary for localized efficiency. Reviewing local codes for older buildings or updated protocols will ensure your structure is prepared with the latest resilience features. Building codes can affect roof slopes, ventilation, material standards, and other structural elements to optimize their fire and ember penetration resistance. Retrofitting structures to further improve resilience through non or low combustible siding, tempered glass, vent meshes, and additional upgrades may cost in the short run, but is well worth the investment against the chance of a fire loss.
Understanding your risks and taking action against them will reduce the potential of a wildfire loss and reduce the chance of a total loss in the event structures catch fire. When losses do occur, RMC Group provides tools that help clients understand loss variables and recover faster with experienced professionals. Our experts come from diverse backgrounds in fire investigation, construction consulting, and engineering to find insightful solutions to complex problems. RMC's Building Consulting and Infrastructure Analysis services help determine accurate loss scopes, find cost-effective restoration answers, and oversee recovery procedures as necessary to ensure superior quality.
To learn more about how RMC helps clients in wildfire loss scenarios, give us a call or send over your assignment, and one of our experts will get in touch to review and discuss the best solution for you.
Information courtesy of the US Forest Service Research Data Archive, NFPA, and IBHS's DisasterSafety.org