CityLab: Fire Damage to California’s Homes Isn’t as Random as It Seems

CityLab: Fire Damage to California’s Homes Isn’t as Random as It Seems
December 12, 2017 Peter

In the midst of the many wildfire emergencies that have faced California this year, it can often seem that the way houses burn, or don’t, is random. The thing is, though, it’s not. Firefighters and researchers alike have a pretty solid understanding of why some houses are more vulnerable to wildfire than others. The real challenge ultimately lies in whether those with the power to act on that knowledge will do so. It is commonly thought that it takes direct flame to spread a fire, but this isn’t always the case. Small embers are instead often the culprits that begin house fires during wildfires. These small bits of burning debris can be lofted long distances by the wind. They can then end up igniting landscaping materials like combustible mulch, or enter homes through vulnerable spots—gutters teeming with debris, unscreened attic vents, open or broken windows, old roofs with missing shingles. Once there, the embers smolder and can ultimately catch a house on fire.

 

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