When we think of wildfires, we do not typically imagine Southern states like Florida and Georgia. However, the recent past has put these states at risk. In October of 2018, Hurricane Michael tore through both states, leaving severe forest damage in its wake. Ancient oaks and strong pines were snapped and uprooted, and limbs and leaves were blown off. There have been excellent clean-up efforts, but years later, accumulated debris remains. Moreover, this wood has dried out. It is now acting as potential kindling. One tossed cigarette could have devastating consequences.
Now is the time for Floridians to plan for wildfires, especially those who live near wooded areas. Here are some tips to help protect your home or business in the event of a wildfire.
The roof is one of the first places an outside fire can touch. Roofs are designed to protrude outward from the home, and flames can latch onto corners and canopies, traveling upward. Keeping your roof free of debris is a key element of wildfire prevention. Many two-story homes have dormers, structures that protrude from the roof, often containing a window. Leaves and twigs can build up along the intersections between the roof and the dormer. If fire touches these leaves, it can spread up a dormer’s wall, eventually hitting the window.
Clean gutters are good home hygiene, and they are also a safety necessity. If flames reach dry debris accumulated in the gutters, fire could spread along the gutter rapidly. Sitting next to the edge of the roof, the gutter becomes an easy spot for fire to continue spreading across the home.
The roof itself can become a tool for fire prevention. Locate the original inspection paperwork for your home, and read the details about your roof’s fire rating. Fire ratings are listed as Class A, B, or C. If your roof rates at a C or below, it is time to consider updating it. Older inspection documents may not contain this information. In that case, it is a good idea to call an inspector. You may discover that your roof must be replaced. Fortunately, a complete replacement may not be necessary. You can sometimes add Class A roofing materials to what is already present.
Wood is not the only material that is vulnerable to fire. Glass is particularly sensitive to heat radiation. Windows can overheat and shatter, leaving a fire-free to move up and around an open hole. If your window frames are wooden, fire can easily latch onto them, moving upward and outward along the walls.
Fire safe windows are made of dual pane, tempered glass. Tempering is a process that strengthens glass, making it more resistant to heat radiation. The dual panes add an extra layer of protection. If one pane overheats, it will take the brunt of the damage and shatter, leaving the other to remain strong.
Fire safety does not stop with the glass itself. Vinyl frames with metal reinforcement can absorb more heat. They will not stop fire from spreading completely, but they can contain some of the flames, keeping them from spreading wildly. Any curtains or blinds you use should be fire retardant. Testing has shown that cotton curtains will ignite if an outside fire shatters the window, and they pose a genuine threat to the home if they start to blaze.
Keeping your yard clear of debris is great for fire safety. This is especially true with a home that has siding. Siding is sometimes made from combustible materials. If it catches fire, the very frame of the home will be at risk. Research the material of your home’s siding. It may be replaceable with a non-combustible material.
Debris is a danger that must always be avoided. Check the slope leading up to your deck. Make sure it is clear of dried, dead sticks and leaves. Keep the deck itself clear as well. Sweep along the small gutters between planks of wood, as they can collect small twigs.
Inspect the wood itself. Is it dry and exposed? Make sure it is treated with the newest, most flame-resistant products. See if it is possible to replace the wood with flame-resistant materials.
Do not store combustibles underneath your deck. Many people use this area as wood storage. Doing so is convenient, but it could be life-threatening in the event of a wildfire.
The Pittman Firm, P.A. is a personal injury law firm that fights for the rights and safety of Floridians. If you have suffered from a burn injury, call us today at (850) 764-0383 or contact us online.