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Be Ember Aware Tip #6: Use noncombustible materials

Posted 6/1/2009

Note: This is the sixth 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

During a wildfire, thousands of windblown embers may pelt your house like hail during a storm. Many of the embers that strike the side of the house can fall to the ground and accumulate next to your home. If your neighborhood is asked to evacuate as wildfire approaches, the embers can lie there, glowing unattended for hours or even days. If the embers are in contact with a wood sided house or something that can ignite in the flowerbed, your home could be in jeopardy.

The vegetation, landscape materials and other items located immediately adjacent to your home have critical influence on house survival during wildfire and ember attack. Homeowners living in high fire hazard areas need to create a "noncombustible area" within 3-5 feet of their houses. Some of the important "do’s" and "don’ts" of a noncombustible area include:

Dos:

  • Use hard surfaces such as concrete, brick and rock
  • Use green, healthy well maintained lawn
  • Use gravel mulches
  • Use irrigated herbaceous plants such as annual and perennial flowers and groundcovers
  • Use short, less than 18 inches in height, deciduous shrubs, but don’t locate them in front of foundation vents

Don’ts:

  • Don’t locate the firewood pile in this area
  • Don’t use wood, bark or rubber mulches
  • Don’t have uncovered garbage cans or paper recycling bins here
  • Don’t have dried grass and weeds, fallen pine needles and leaves or dead branches located in this area
  • Don’t use ornamental evergreen plants, such as shrub junipers

Having a noncombustible area next to your home is an important part of protecting it from wildfire. Don’t wait - take action now before the embers arrive.

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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