Image of combustible leaves and twigs in a gutter.

Reducing Wildfire Damage to Your Home

Updated March 5, 2022 . AmFam Team

Many homes in fire-prone areas are not prepared for wildfires. Check out these important tips that will improve your home’s ability to defend itself against the elements.

There was a time when builders selected roofing material that added beauty and longevity to a home and paid little attention to fire-retardant materials. Times have changed. Wildfires seem to consume more and more acreage with each passing season, but the fact remains that many rural homes were built for fire conditions that have shifted in the last several years. Now drought is common where it once was rare. And many of the roofing and building materials used to make homes decades ago are now vulnerable to igniting as wildfires enter new, formerly fire-safe areas. Starting at the roof and working our way down, let’s explore the ways you can help to keep your roof and home safe from wildfires.

Determine the make-up of your roof. Fire resistant roofing materials come in three classes: A, B and C with A being the most fire retardant. If you live in an area that may be threatened by wildfires, and your roofing materials are rated less than A, consider upgrading. You’ll also want to consider replacing your roof if it has more than one layer of shingles because this will only add fuel to the fire. And be sure to verify that a fireproof underlayment was applied to the roof deck before the final layer was applied. If not, get one installed under a new roof.

Stop the fire at its source. Roofs are most vulnerable to embers because they make up the largest area where embers can land on a home. Remember, barriers are your friend. Install steel cladding in the space between the roof gutter and other areas preventing exposed wood from the risk of igniting.

Regularly clean out debris. The materials that collect in gutters and downspouts are also at risk of igniting fires, especially if they go unchecked during fire season. Install steel gutter screens to prevent sticks and leaves from collecting. And regularly remove debris from the sloped corners, taking care to dispose of the debris in a location that won’t pose a fire risk.

Think about fire suppression. If the budget is there, consider installing an exterior roofing sprinkler system. These systems can really make a difference if a continuous water supply is in place. As water from the sprinklers flows down the roof, it will flow into gutters and downspouts helping to stop fires from igniting there.

Get smart. Install a series of smart home smoke detectors that will send you real time notifications. When paired with a home monitoring system, this addition will inform you of trouble weather your home or away. Single source providers like ADT offer both hardware and monitoring services that connect you to real-time conditions (wherever you are) through an easy-to-use app.

Wildfire Protection for the Whole Home

Examine the vents, eves and soffits. The spaces between the vent fins or mesh leave your attic exposed to embers. Install baffles to block embers from directly entering the attic, again using fire resistant or non-combustible materials.

Look into your windows. Large, single sheet windows are most likely to break when exposed to high heat, frequently before the home ignites. Flames can then enter the interior of the home and do real damage. Consider swapping out large pane glass windows with smaller, tempered and double-paned windows.

Check out your exterior walls. The best materials for fire protection are stucco, fiber cement siding and fire retardant, exterior- treated wood. Other products, like boards, panels and cedar shingles provide nominal protection and should be replaced with fire resistant materials. Be sure that the application of the wall materials cover from the foundation to the roof.

Go to the garage. Prevent embers from entering your garage by installing fire resistant weather stripping to the bottom of your garage door. And remember to store flammable materials in a fire rated cabinet. Don’t forget to keep charged, annually-inspected fire extinguishers away from doors and windows. In case your home is at risk of a wildfire, keep your steel rakes, shovels and buckets easily accessible in your garage.

Consider a local water source. The addition of an above-ground pool is an inexpensive way to cool off in the summer and can also serve as a water reserve if a fire should break out nearby. You’ll need to think about safely storing hoses, a generator, gasoline and an electric pump to get the water where you need it. The same goes for a pond, if it’s close to structures you want to protect, though you’ll likely need a filter too.

Make yourself known. Post your address so that it’s clearly visible at the street level as emergency vehicles will need to know exactly where you live. If you have a gate be certain that a fire truck can get through easily. Also, be sure roads on your land are at least 20 feet wide, and clear out low hanging branches that may prevent first responders from getting where they need to go.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Start by taking on the biggest priorities and work your way toward improving the weak spots — soon your home will be stronger. As drought conditions continue to move into new areas, more and more homes will need to revisit their exterior materials to defend against the dangers of wildfires. It’s a good idea to consider reviewing your homeowners policy to be sure your property coverage matches the evolving demands of your location. It may need a little tuning up as well. After you’ve taken on these tasks, your home will be a safer from wildfires and you’ll feel great knowing your home and your family are protected.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

Related Articles

Related article test
  • Woman sitting at table writing a home inventory for homeowners insurance.
    Woman sitting at table writing a home inventory for homeowners insurance.
    9 Steps to Create a Home Inventory for Insurance Claims

    Your home is more than a roof over your head. It’s where your dreams grow, your family thrives and memories are made. But the possessions you keep inside are important, too.

    Whether you’re renting an apartment or own your home, you’ve most likely got an insurance policy designed to protect your dwelling and the things inside. Should the unthinkable happen and you have to use that insurance policy, it’s important to have a plan in place. And a home inventory list is a great way to get started!

    We’ll walk you through how to create a home inventory so — in the event of the unexpected — you’ll be more prepared and have a streamlined recovery.

    What Is a Home Inventory?

    Quite simply, a home inventory is a complete list of all the items, especially valuables, in and around your home. The best home inventories include photos, descriptions and dollar values of each of your belongings. The more detail, the better! It’ll help you provide a comprehensive list to your agent of items lost in the event your home is damaged or destroyed, allowing you to get the most out of your coverage.

    When your describing the items in your list, remember that the more information, the better. Here’s a quick reference list of the type of information you should include in your home inventory list:

    • An in-depth description of the items. For example, rather than writing down “diamond ring,” be more descriptive, such as: “an emerald cut diamond ring, with white gold shank, accent stones and initials inscribed below the bridge.”
    • Make, model, and/or serial number of the items.
    • Date of purchase, receipts and photos.
    • Estimated replacement cost if you bought it today. Do note that the value of the items might be different today than it was when you first bought them. This is especially true with jewelry, and other valuables.
    • Appraisals at time of purchase. Especially if your items were appraised for insurance purposes.

    Why Do I Need a Home Inventory?

    Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, everyone can benefit from a home inventory!

    If you ever have to make a claim, a home inventory is a great asset to have, especially after stressful events like theft, storm damage or a fire (take a look at how one renter used their home inventory after facing an apartment fire).

    When you make a claim, you typically submit information on everything that was lost — which can be difficult to do off the top of your head for all your possessions. Remembering to replace your TV or computer are no-brainers, but when it comes to remembering each piece of jewelry in your jewelry box, things tend to get overlooked. Having a personal property inventory will help, along with knowing how to properly insure your jewelry.

    When you have your home inventory checklist, you know exactly what needs to be replaced, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing your entire household is protected.

  • A row of houses in a neighborhood with storm clouds that will bring strong rain and roof leaks behind it.
    A row of houses in a neighborhood with storm clouds that will bring strong rain and roof leaks behind it.
    Reasons Why a Roof Leaks

    You’re admiring the rain from the comfort of your home when you notice a sound — the unmistakable drip of water dropping onto your floor. The first and hardest step is figuring out why your roof is leaking. And with these tips, you’ll find the culprit in no time!

    Here’s Why Your Roof Is Leaking

    The list of reasons why your roof is leaking may seem long, but don’t worry — when it comes to finding the leak and fixing it, the finding is the hardest part. And the good thing about these problems? They can all be fixed. Check out the list and see what’s troubling your roof:

    Your roof is old

    Roofs don’t last forever. Protecting your home and everything inside it from the elements comes with a cost. And with all that rain, snow, ice, wind and even sunlight wearing down your roof, it becomes more susceptible to leaks. Every roof will eventually need to be replaced, so learn more about how long your roof should last based on what it’s made of.

  • A home with a wet roof after a storm.
    A home with a wet roof after a storm.
    How to Check Your Roof for Storm Damage

    There’s no good time to find out your roof needs repair — but you may be able to mitigate that pain by routinely checking your roof for damage after severe weather. Waiting for a leak or damage to present itself gives the problem time to grow and worsen.

    And sometimes, you’ll be faced with expensive roof and interior damage repairs if you’re not diligent. By being proactive and checking your roof for damage after severe weather hits can help your roof — and your savings — stay healthy.