Researchers are looking into ways to protect homes from wildfires as millions of acres across the U.S. are once again being burnt out of existence.
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s research team is focusing on what causes homes to ignite during a wildfire, and it found that 90% of homes were first ignited by embers rather than the actual fires.
The problem is that embers disperse for miles from their source, and can easily set off a new fire when they fall to the ground. Embers enter homes through vents and dead landscaping, or start a fire when they touch dry wood and other flammable home building materials, BUILDER reported.
There are some items in and around the home that pose a much higher risk of catching on fire from flying embers, especially bark mulch, the researchers said.
“Wood mulch is a pretty common landscaping material, and I understand the use of it, but the problem is it’s combustible,” Daniel Gorham, research engineer at IBHS, told BUILDER. “It has lots of little crevices for those fire embers to land in, sit there, and smolder.”
A better ground cover would be gravel, which doesn’t ignite from fire embers, the IBHS said.
The researchers have also called for more use of fire-resistant building materials. Builders and homeowners could create zones of home fire protection, such as a five-foot space around the perimeter of the home’s exterior walls that’s clear of combustible materials such as dead leaves, twigs, bushes and plants. Materials such as gravel, brick and concrete could be used instead, the researchers suggested.
IBHS also urged builders to consider their product choices to protect against wildfires, recommending the use of Class A fire rating materials for roofing, siding, windows and doors. They also recommend multipane windows with tempered glass and providing a six-inch ground-to-siding clearance, and the use of 1/8 inch mesh to cover any vents. In addition, fiber cement board siding has been shown to provide better protection against wildfires than wood shingles, the researchers said.