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A Guide to Protecting Homes from Wildfires

D. Allen Hughes, PE

Wildfires are a common, natural, and essential occurrence in the forests, woodlands, brushlands, and grasslands of the United States and Canada. When conditions are acceptable, fire professionals use fire to revitalize the ecosystem and reduce accumulated vegetation that can fuel a wildfire under certain conditions. Although the severity and timing of fire seasons vary widely from region to region, wildfires often pose a threat to lives, property, and resources. During an average fire season, hundreds of homes are damaged or destroyed by wildfire, and in extreme fire conditions, thousands of homes can be damaged or destroyed. Severe fire weather in areas with significant amounts of wildland fuels can lead to extreme fire behavior. Wildland fuels vary throughout the United States. In the Pacific Northwest and the Lake States, forests are the predominate wildland fuel. In southern California, chaparral brush predominates. The plains states have grass and oak woodlands, New Jersey has Pine Barrens, and the southeast has pine and hardwood forests. Wildfires can damage buildings through direct flame contact, convection (heat that rises from a fire and creates a smoke column), conduction (heat that transfers through material such as metal roofs and railings), and radiation (heat from a fire next to the building). Wildfires can also create burning embers that rise in the smoke column and fall on buildings. Firebrands (large pieces of wind-driven, burning material) can be blown through windows or lodged against a building and lead to ignition of the building. Traditional efforts to protect buildings from wildfires have focused on fighting the fire before it reaches the buildings. With the expansion of residential construction into previously undeveloped forests and wildlands, more buildings are now at risk from wildfires. Fighting or suppressing the fire is often difficult or impractical; buildings must therefore also be constructed to be fire-resistant. No building can be completely fireproof, but implementing the recommendations that are described in this course can greatly reduce the potential for damage to a building and greatly increase its chance of survival. This course will introduce you to the principles and practices of home construction in wildfire zones. This course includes a quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials. This course is based on the publication “Homebuilder’s Guide to Home Construction in Wildfire Zones”.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.