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Ember Aware Tip #10: Watch those windows

Posted 6/29/2009

Note: This is the 10th 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 www.livingwithfire.info

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

Windows are typically the weakest parts of the exterior of your home during a wildfire. Radiant heat and direct contact by flames can break window glass. This happens because the window glass that you can see heats to a different temperature than the glass protected by the window frame. This difference in temperature causes the glass to crack. If the broken glass falls out during a wildfire, embers can enter your home and ignite it from the inside. If the embers striking the house are big enough and are hitting with enough force, the can also break windows. Our “Be Ember Aware” window tips include the following:

  • Install windows that are least dual-paned or tempered glass. They will resist greater fire intensities than single-paned windows. The type of frame material used, such as vinyl, wood, or metal, is not as critical as the type of glass.
  • Remove wooden flowerboxes from under windows or construct them of fire resistant materials and use ignition-resistant plants. Do not use wood or bark mulches in them.
  • Do not plant large, dense shrubs such as ornamental juniper under windows.
  • Do not place the firewood stack under windows.
  • Prepare ¾-inch plywood covers that are sized and labeled for your windows. If there is time, you can attach these covers before you evacuate. Shutters can also help.
  • Decayed wood window sills should be replaced. Decayed wood is easier to ignite than wood in good condition.
  • Move easily ignited materials, such as light curtains and overstuffed furniture, away from the window. If the window glass breaks and falls away, embers could enter the house and ignite them.
  • Before evacuating, make sure all your windows are closed, including basement, garage, and vehicle windows.

To learn more about protecting your home from the ember threat, visit www.livingwithfire.info and request a free copy of our new publication, Be Ember Aware!, download it at www.unce.unr.edu or contact Ed Smith at smithe@unce.unr.edu. 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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