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Protect Your Home from Wildfires

Wildfires ignite when a distinct combination of elements exist: heat, oxygen and fuel. While heat and oxygen are out of man’s control, if you remove the elements that fuel a fire from around your home and property, you reduce its ability to spread, greatly minimizing—or even eliminating—your risk.

Steps you can take now to reduce risk to your home and property:

Create defensible space around your home. Creating and maintaining defensible space around your home’s perimeter is critical to slowing or stopping the spread of wildfire and preventing spot fires that are caused by flying embers. This does not mean you should clear out all vegetation from around your property; defensible space is about strategically clearing and placing vegetation to produce a buffer between your home or other structures on your property, and the grass, trees, shrubs or any wildland area that surrounds it. Many experts recommend taking a zoned approach to defensible space. Click on the graphic below to learn more about the zones and for advice pertaining to each one.

Ensure that vents, eaves and other openings are fire-safe. Vents, eaves and other openings are vulnerable entry points for embers and flames. Make sure vents are louvered or covered with a protective wire screen with openings no larger than a quarter-inch. Eaves should be boxed or covered with a soffit to help deflect fire. Ember-resistant vents, like those from Brandguard, provide protection from direct flame intrusion, radiant heat and flying embers.

Provide easy emergency access to your property. Identify your home with a clearly marked street number for emergency personnel. Driveways should be at least 12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet to allow emergency vehicles and equipment to reach your house.

Consider using Phos-Chek® Home Defense Fire Retardant. The Phos-Check Home Defense kit utilizes an uncolored version of the same fire retardant used by the USDA Forest Service and can be applied using most garden sprayers. While Phos-Chek can be applied within hours of a wildfire reaching your home, it’s best used as a pre-treatment before wildfire season begins. Spray Phos-Chek on wood and vegetation around the perimeter of your home including your garage, gardens, outbuildings and other areas of your property that you wish to protect from wildfire. Phos-Chek is environmentally-friendly, long-lasting and effective until the next rain or until it is washed off.

Work with your neighbors to become Firewise. The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program encourages neighbors to work together to address common wildfire risks. “Homes closer than 100 feet can ignite one another during wildfire conditions,” says Michele Steinberg, NFPA’s manager of wildland fire operations. “When neighbors work together, the whole community benefits from a lower risk of wildfire ignition.” Visit www.firewise.org/usa to learn more.

Develop an evacuation plan. Your family may not be together in the event of an emergency evacuation. How will you find each other? How will you know if everyone is safe? What will you do if phone services are shut off? Having an evacuation plan in place can help you answer all of these questions. For help creating an evacuation plan, click here. A survival kit will also ensure you have necessary supplies, like food, water, flashlights, batteries, medications and other essential items in the event of evacuation. Click here for a basic list of supplies.

Larger-scale preventative measures to consider:

Install an automatic wildfire suppression system. Stand-alone automatic fire suppression systems can be installed around the exterior of your home for an additional layer of protection. These systems can detect wildfire activity from as far as half-mile away and will automatically turn on. They can even alert authorities to the approaching threat. Among these is Frontline Wildfire Defense System, which can be incorporated into a newly built home or your existing home at an average cost of $4-$6 per square foot. To learn more or request a quote, click here.

Consider the construction of your home and its contents:

Incorporate non-combustible roofing materials. Your roof is the most vulnerable part of your home and should be constructed with noncombustible or fire-resistant materials. When building a home or installing a new roof, consider using composition metal, slate, tile, concrete or masonry materials. Homes with wood or shingle roofs are at high risk of being destroyed during a wildfire. If you prefer the look of wood shake, consider polymer roof tiles; they look and feel like cedar shake but are fire-resistant and more durable.

Utilize traditional building materials. Newly constructed homes that include engineered wood, plastics and other synthetic products burn faster than older homes built with solid lumber and heavy-duty materials. If constructing or renovating a home, choose original woods and traditional materials, such as concrete, brick or cement. Windows should also be taken into consideration. Tempered and double pane glass windows, which have been tested under wildfire conditions, can make a home more resistant to heat and flames.

Don’t forget about awnings, decks, pergolas and other features. Ensure that these are constructed from non-combustible materials. When possible, use larger pieces of lumber (3x3 or larger), which burn at a slower rate. Consider enclosing your deck to prevent embers from igniting the framing underneath your home.

PURE's Wildfire Mitigation Program

This program includes pre-fire preparation and wildfire response services intended to reduce—or even prevent—loss from wildfire. Should a wildfire immediately threaten your home, our qualified partners in wildfire protection could visit the home to inspect for and reduce vulnerability to wildfire and, if necessary, apply a fire retardant. At your request, additional consultative services, including pre-season perimeter sprays and evacuation planning, can be coordinated. To learn more, click here.

PURE members in wildfire-prone areas can schedule a complimentary wildfire inspection, during which time a PURE Risk Manager or wildfire specialist will look for potential vulnerabilities and make recommendations to help safeguard your home and property from wildfire. To schedule a complimentary inspection, contact Matt Zarnoch at 914.506.4543 or click here.

Wildfire Activation Planning for Collections

If you have a collection of artwork or other valuable items, it's critical to have a wildfire activation plan in place for these belongings. It should take into consideration the different care your pieces require according to their material, age and other factors, and instructions for valuables that will not or cannot be removed from your home. Identify vendors such as fine art collection handling services, wine storage facilities and transportation providers, and if possible, have them on retainer.

Your plan should also take documentation into consideration. Ensure that appraisals and invoices are safe and use a cloud-based collection management system to inventory your pieces. This can enable faster payment and reduce questions about the value of your pieces at the time of a claim.

The Haven Art Group, a member of the PURE Group of Insurance Companies, can assist you with developing a thorough wildfire activation and inventory management plan. Initial consultations for wildfire activation plans are complimentary, and most plans cost between $2,500 and $10,000. A PURE Member Advocate can connect you with Haven to help you get started.

To learn more about implementing these measures or to locate a local service provider that can assist you, contact Matt Zarnoch at mzarnoch@pureinsurance.com or 914.506.4543.