Preventing Home Damage from Wildfire

Thursday, June 24 2010

MOSCOW, Idaho – It may be wet and cool now, but summer will bring hot and dry conditions throughout the state.

With above normal amounts of precipitation this spring, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise is forecasting a slow start to the 2010 Idaho fire season. But with little to no snowpack in the high elevations, July, August and September are predicted to have an above normal potential for wildfire.

"Anticipating wildfire is the first step to making your home and property as fire-safe as possible,” said Yvonne Barkley, University of Idaho associate extension forester.

New research shows that up to 85 percent of wildfire home ignitions are from flaming brands and embers that can fly in from as far away as five miles from the flaming front of a wildfire. This makes your home the largest and most vulnerable source of ignition on your property.

Barkley suggests these inexpensive things people can do now to increase their home’s fire-resistance:

• Remove all debris from gutters, overhangs, room additions and bay windows. Pay attention to areas such as corners and under stairs, as well as under decks, porches, carports and around fences.

• Box in eaves, fascias, soffits and vents, or enclose them with metal screens. Cover vent openings with metal screens to prevent firebrands or other flammable objects larger than 1/8” from entering the home.

• Install spark arresters on chimneys.

• Reconsider outdoor furniture and accessories: many of these items are common sources of ignition. Replace wood or wicker tables and chairs with ones made from metal and glass.

• Cushions, umbrellas, furniture covers, door mats, planters and window boxes, as well as boats, campers and other recreational equipment, are all places where embers can collect, smolder and ignite well after the fire has passed. Have an enclosed space to store these items or be able to move them away from the home in the event of a blaze.

• Indentify areas where combustible materials meet, such as where a wooden fence is attached to wooden stairs that lead to a wooden deck. Separate these areas with a span of non-flammable material.

Barkley also suggests these long-term retrofitting activities:

• Roofing materials have flammability ratings, from Class A – able to withstand severe exposure to fire, like metal roofs, to Class C – able to withstand light exposure to fire, like asphalt shingles. Wood shake roofs are not rated and, in many cases, offer almost certain ignition of the home.

• Use of fire-resistant exteriors such as cement, plaster, stucco, brick and masonry provides greater levels of protection to the home than vinyl siding.

• Use of double-paned or tempered glass can help reduce the risk of interior ignitions from heating by providing an added layer of protection.

• Screens should have metal frames as well as metal, not plastic, mesh.

More in-depth information is available on two new websites:
• eXtension Living With Fire:
• Idaho Firewise:

In addition, the complete guide, "Protecting and Landscaping Homes in the Wildland/Urban Interface," is available from the University of Idaho. It provides insight to understanding wildfire and how homes are destroyed, as well as tips to minimize home ignition potential. The publication costs $4 and is available by contacting Agricultural Publications, University of Idaho, P.O. Box 442240, Moscow, Idaho, 83844-2240, (208) 885-7982 or by e-mailing
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit