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Be Ember Aware Tip #11: Can your house defend itself?

Posted 7/8/2009

Note: This is the 11th 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

By Ed Smith, natural resource specialist, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (775) 782-9960

Most homes are destroyed by wildfire because wind-driven burning embers come into contact with something easily ignited on or near the home. When evaluating your property’s vulnerability to embers, you should do it in the context of wildfire conditions. You should assume:

  • Hot temperatures, very dry humidity, and strong gusting winds.
  • Poor visibility due to smoke.
  • No electricity.
  • Little or no water pressure.
  • No telephone, including cell phone service.
  • Panicking people acting irrationally.
  • Firefighters will not be protecting your home.
  • You and your family will not be present.
  • Thousands of burning pieces of bark, pine cones, branches, and wood shake shingles being driven by winds into your house and onto your roof.

Now assume that your home is exactly as you left it this morning to go work. Would it survive under these conditions? Did you leave a window open? Did you forget to close the garage door? Is the firewood pile stacked next to the house? Are the garbage cans on the back porch full and not covered by lids? Take steps now to reduce the ember threat to your home. Waiting till the fire starts may cost you your home.

To learn more about protecting your home from the ember threat, visit and request a free copy of our new publication, Be Ember Aware!, download it at or contact Ed Smith at 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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