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Ember aware tip #4: Decks can be a fire hazard

Posted 5/20/2009

Homeowners can take steps to keep wildland embers from igniting their porches

Note: This is the fourth in an ongoing series of tips for homeowners living in fire-prone areas. Each week, Cooperative Extension Natural Resource Specialist Ed Smith will be providing Be Ember Aware tips for homeowners who want to reduce the risk of losing their home to embers created from wildfires. Nevada has more than 250 communities that face a wildfire threat, and 68 communities are at extreme and high risk. For more information on protecting your home from wildfires, visit Living With Fire.

By: Ed Smith, natural resource specialist, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

Decks are a common feature of Nevada homes situated in high fire-hazard areas. They are also one of the vulnerable areas of your property to embers during wildfire. This applies to decks comprised of wood boards as well as those made from plastic-composites. If you have a deck and live in a high fire-hazard area, you should consider the following tips.

  • Keep the gaps between deck boards free of pine needles, leaves and other debris. Embers can become lodged in the gaps and ignite the deck. Also, don’t allow fallen pine needles and other dead plant material to accumulate on the deck surface during fire season.
  • The area underneath the deck is particularly susceptible to ember attack. Don’t store firewood, gas cans, lawn mowers, cardboard or other combustible materials under the deck and keep it free of weeds, pine needles and leaves. Consider enclosing the deck with solid skirting, such as siding that is properly vented or with 1/8-inch wire mesh to limit ember penetration and reduce maintenance. Don’t enclose it with wooden lattice.
  • Rotted or otherwise poor condition wood is more easily ignited by embers than good condition wood. Replace deteriorated wooden deck boards and posts with new ones.
  • Install metal flashing between the deck and the side of the house.
  • If wildfire is threatening, remove combustible materials from the deck, including newspapers, baskets, door mats, dried flower arrangements, propane tanks and door mats, and place them inside the house or garage.

Decks are an important and attractive feature to many homes in the wildland-urban interface. Unfortunately, they can also contribute to the wildfire threat to your home. Take steps now, before fire season, to reduce the deck danger. To learn more about protecting your home from the ember threat, visit Living With Fire and request a free copy of our new publication, Be Ember Aware! You can also download it at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension or contact Ed Smith. Be Ember Aware is a component of the Living With Fire program, an interagency program coordinated by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

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