Homes can be built to fight wildfires
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Homes in forest areas prone to wildfires present challenges for firefighters. But it may be easier than experts thought to build homes that can stand up to the flames.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported on efforts to design homes that are more resistant to fire. Homes in fire-prone areas usually don't ignite from the flames. Instead, hot embers land on pine needles in the gutters or flammable roofing materials.
Adding building products and techniques to make a home more fire resistant adds 6 to 10 percent to the overall building cost, according to Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics. Rasker has been studying the issue along with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.
Currently, most building codes don't have requirements to reduce fire risks. But, more than 30 percent of all U.S. homes are built in what’s known as the wildland-urban interface. And 84 percent of that wildland-urban interface remains undeveloped, so more homes could be built in the path of future wildfires.
The cost to suppress fires rose to $4 billion in 2017, and the U.S. Forest Service would prefer to allow some fires to burn naturally. Better community planning would separate communities from forests, make it safer for some fires to burn.
The Forest Service offered some tips to reduce the risk of homes igniting during a wildfire:
- Clear trees and ground cover at least 100 feet from the forest edge
- Build homes to be more resilient
- Keep homes clear of pine needles and brush