Wildfire Safety and Your Home: Ember Storms and the WUI
Do you want to protect your home and family? A wildfire can destroy homes and lives. Without warning, flames can engulf entire towns. Most homes destroyed by wildfires are ignited by embers, not flames. These embers can travel for miles through the air until they reach your home and ignite it. These embers can enter through a vent in your home, and then? BOOM! Your attic, basement, or crawl space is the perfect dry and flammable place for an ember to land.
That is, unless you have a Vulcan Vent. The Vulcan Vent is heat and ember-resistant so embers won’t pass through. It has tiny holes that close when exposed to heat. The government of California has now forced new homes built in at-risk areas to have one. That’s because it’s so useful at protecting homes from wildfires. But if your home is older than this new law, you’ll need to have one installed. The Vulcan Vent protects against embers that can destroy your life.
If you live in California, you know all about wildfires. You’ve seen on the news entire towns destroyed by them. You know the state is perfect for burning, with its dry heat and winds. Many Americans thinking about moving here change their mind once they hear about all the fires.
The recent Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise was the most deadly in state history. The Woolsey Fire in Malibu destroyed the homes of ultra-rich celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Neil Young, and Gerard Butler. No one knows where the next giant wildfire will occur. There will be no warning.
If you live in an area at risk for wildfire, listen carefully. The Vulcan Vent uses patented technology to protect your home from embers and flames. It can make all the difference between your home standing or turning into a pile of ash.
What is an Ember Storm?
When most of us think about wildfires, we imagine huge flames. What we’re forgetting is that most homes are ignited by embers, not flames. These embers can travel for miles through the air, smoldering until they land on a flammable surface (such as the inside of your home). When a wildfire of adequate size generates a huge amount of embers, an ember storm can be created. An ember storm is exactly what it sounds like: a huge volume of embers traveling together through the air, like a fiery cloud traveling in search of a town to destroy.
Obviously houses made of wood will burn more easily than houses made of stone. Using fire-resistant materials for the roof of your house as well as its exterior is a no-brainer. Materials such as metal and stucco are less flammable than other popular options.
Vegetation can be used to create fire-protective barriers. Some plants are much less flammable than others due to their high-moisture content. The same is true for trees. Guarding your home with these plants is a wise safety precaution, while their less fire-resistant counterparts will easily ignite if embers arrive and come into contact with them. Some fire resistant plants are: rockrose, iceplant, aloe, currant, cotoneaster, sumac, shrub apples, hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, lavender, salvias, yucca, and agave. Some fire resistant trees are: oak, maple, and cherry.
In addition to vegetation, other landscaping structures can be utilized for fire protection. Sand and mulch create low flammability barriers. Stone walls or paths hinder the expansion of flames. Keeping your lawn moist will reduce flammability.
But all of this is useless if an ember gets inside your home through a vent. No matter how low-flammability of a material you use for the roof and exterior of your home, or how strategically you use plants and stonework in your landscape to create barriers against the expansion of flames, it won’t matter if your house is vulnerable via its vents. Vents are perfect access points through which embers can enter and ignite the flammable materials of your attic, basement, or crawlspaces.
That’s why it is so crucial to have a Vulcan Vent installed if your home isn’t built with one already. And it is even more important if you live in…
The Wildland-Urban Interface
The Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) is the area of transition between civilization and nature. WUI’s are particularly at high risk from wildfires due to the abundance of vegetation around and between the homes, and a lack of protective structures or firebreaks to stop the spread of flames. These areas are incredibly vulnerable due to this abundance of fuel (vegetation) with nothing to impede the expansion of flames.
The amount of homes built in WUI’s is increasing rapidly in the U.S. Population shifts from high-rent cities towards the outskirts with scenic views of nature are part of this drive. In the U.S., WUI’s are increasing by 18 percent per decade. Between 1990 and 2000, there were 6 million new homes built in WUI’s. Between 1990 and 2010, WUI’s were the most rapidly growing type of land use. This trend is especially pronounced in the West and South.
In 2013 it was calculated that a whopping 32 percent of habitable structures in the U.S. are located in a WUI. Federal spending has skyrocketed to accommodate the drastic increase in damages caused by wildfires. The mere act of populations moving into flammable areas increases the likelihood of fires greatly; between 2001 and 2011 it was estimated that 85 percent of fires in the U.S. were started by people.
Communities with a moderate population density located in a WUI are most at risk for wildfires. The relationship between population density and fire risk is not exactly linear. Up to a certain point an increase in population density signifies an increase in fire risk, but past that point increases in population density decrease the fire risk. It is not entirely clear why this is the case, but it may be that high population density carries with it an increased amount of urban structures and fire-preventive resources, as well as less open space with flammable vegetation.
California is filled with WUI’s. These are the areas most at risk for wildfire, though surely they are not the only places where a significant risk is present. Embers—not flames—can travel for miles and cause a house to begin burning the majority of the time. Though there are a number of measures that can be taken to reduce the flammability of your home, only an ember-resistant vent can stop embers from entering your home and igniting it from within. The Vulcan Vent has been tested at extreme temperatures and will withstand fire. Its ¼ inch holes will actually close in response to flames, blocking heat from entry. Its heat resistant fine mesh stops embers from passing through.
If you live in California or another area at risk, take every precaution necessary to keep your home and family safe. It is a worst case scenario, but one to be prepared for.