Colorado wildfire season has begun with multiple major wildfires; High Park Wildfire near Ft. Collins, Springer Wildfire near Lake George, and the Paradox Wildfire near Paradox. 9 News reported that the High Park wildfire has burned 189 of the more than 700 residences within the 100 square miles of the High Park wildfire active burn area. Over 3 million acres of beetle kill are in Colorado, predominantly in the north central mountains. Don’t assume it won’t happen to you.
The two best defenses against wildfire are a defensible perimeter around your structures and build with non-flammable building materials. About nine years ago I worked with a home owner who was building a home near Jamestown, about 45 minutes into the foothills above Boulder. He built the structure of his home out of a material call RASTA Insulated Concrete Forms. The roof was a US-150 standing seam metal roof system made of 24 gauge steel.
The home was built on the top of a hill with amazing views of the surrounding forest. Unfortunately a wildfire erupted in the forest surrounding his newly built home only two days before he was scheduled to move into the recently completed home. The wildfire forced the evacuation of Jamestown and surrounding residences.
The fire moved at great speeds and burned exceptionally hot. The fire burned the property that my client’s home was built upon and the forest surrounding the home. When fire officials allowed residents to return, the home built with RASTA ICF and a U.S. Metals standing seam metal roof was still standing, sans doors and windows. Fire officials speculated that the fire moved through the home at speeds hundreds of miles per hour and temperatures about 1,000 degrees, burning all the vegetation surrounding the home but not the home itself. Fire officials credit the survival of the home to the building materials.
This year’s wildfire season is exacerbated by over 3 million acres of beetle kill, drought conditions, high temperatures and wind. Start your wildfire defense today!
The following is from the Colorado State Forest Service on how to build a defensible space around your structures.
Your first defense against wildfire is to create and maintain a defensible space around your home. This does not mean your landscape must be barren.
Defensible space is an area around a structure where fuels and vegetation are treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire toward the structure. It also reduces the chance of a structure fire moving from the building to the surrounding forest.
Defensible space also provides room for firefighters to do their jobs. Your house is more likely to withstand a wildfire if grasses, brush, trees and other common forest fuels are managed to reduce a fire’s intensity. The following are a few key steps to creating a defensible zone, but is not a comprehensive list.
Actively manage your roof. Clean roof and gutters of pine needles and leaves at least twice a year to eliminate an ignition source for potential fires.
Stack firewood away from your house. Locate firewood at least 30 feet uphill from your home. Do not stack firewood under the deck.
Remove unhealthy vegetation. Trees and shrubs that are stressed, diseased, dead or dying should be removed so that they do not become a fuel source for potential fires.
Create defensible space on flat ground a minimum of 70 – 75 feet around a home. Increase this distance if the structure is located on a slope.
Thin out continuous tree and brush (shrub) cover around structures. Remove flammable vegetation from within the initial 15 feet around structures.
Beyond the initial 15 feet, thin trees to achieve a 10- to 12- foot crown spacing. Occasionally, clumps of two or three trees are acceptable for a more natural appearance, if additional space surrounds them.
Mow grasses and weeds to a height of six inches or less for a distance of 30 feet from all structures.
Prune tree branches within the defensible space up to a height of 10 feet above ground.
Dispose of all slash and debris left from thinning by either chipping, hauling away or piling and burning. Contact your local fire department or local CSFS forester for burning restrictions and/or assistance.
Remove shrubs and small trees or other potential ladder fuels from beneath large trees. Left in place, these fuels can carry a ground fire into tree crowns.
Trim any branches extending over roofs, and remove branches within 15 feet of chimneys.
Clean pine needles, leaves and other debris from roofs and gutters. This eliminates an ignition source for firebrands, especially during hot, dry weather.
Stack firewood and woodpiles at least 30 feet from any structure. Make sure they are uphill or on the same level as structures, and clear away flammable vegetation from within 10 feet of these woodpiles.
Place liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) containers at least 30 feet from structures. Clear anything flammable, including vegetation from within 10 feet of all tanks.
Shake looks great, but it’s made from wood. Get the shake off your roof and re-roof with a metal roof. I know this sounds self serving since I own a metal roofing and siding manufacturing company, but it gives you a fighting chance. However, not all metal roofs are equal.
Controlled tests were conducted per fire code rating methodology to compare fire resistance amongst roofing materials. The results of the test show a wide difference in fire resistance with 30 gauge steel shingles being the least fire resistant and 24 gauge steel being the most fire resistant by a factor of three. Common 30 gauge roofing includes exposed fastener systems such as exposed fastener and agricultural panels. Empirical evidence also suggests that exposed fastener metal roof systems accelerate roof failure in a wildfire event.
Finally, get a fire-resistant safe to keep your valuables in such as backups of your digital photos, important papers, and any other mementos that you can’t replace. Any house can be replaced, but your photos and other family mementos can never be replaced.