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Living With Fire Tip #15 Don't get decked by wildfire

Posted 7/16/2007

Many homes in wildland-urban interface areas have wood decks attached to them. Unfortunately, often homes destroyed during wildfires also have wood decks.

A wood deck can serve as a significant amount of wildfire fuel situated right next to your home. If ignited, a wood deck can generate enough heat to easily ignite just about any house. Having large picture windows and sliding doors adjacent to a deck further increases the hazard. The glass can break and fall out once the deck is ignited. This allows embers to start a fire inside the home.

A well-maintained, all heartwood redwood deck made of one-and-one-half-inch-thick boards may be the best wood decking material available, but it is still combustible. Plastic and plastic-wood fiber decking materials vary in terms of ignitability and fire resistance. Go to http://groups.ucanr.org/HWMG/Decks/ for more information on deck materials. Regardless of the type of deck materials used, follow these guidelines to help reduce the wildfire threat to your home:

  • Replace three-quarter-inch-thick deck boards with one-and-one-half-inch-thick boards.
  • Keep the crevices between deck boards free of pine needles, twigs, and other debris.
  • Replace decayed wood.
  • Do not allow pine needles, trash, leaves, dried weeds, and other easily ignitable materials to accumulate under the deck.
  • Do not store firewood, gas cans, lawn mowers, etc. under the deck.
  • Preferably, skirt the open sides below the deck with solid siding material. If this is not feasible, enclose this area with one-quarter-inch or smaller wire mesh. This will prevent flammable materials from building up under the deck and reduce maintenance.
  • If a wildfire is burning in the vicinity, remove all flammable materials from the deck and place them indoors. This includes flammable patio furniture, bags of charcoal briquettes, lighter fluid, propane bottles, dried flower arrangements, baskets, newspapers, etc.

To learn more about protecting your home from the threat of wildfire, visit www.livingwithfire.info or contact Ed Smith, natural resources specialist, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, (775) 782-9960 or smithe@unce.unr.edu. Living With Fire is an interagency program coordinated by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

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