Monday, April 27, 2015

Homeowners at risk of wildfires should take precautions

A 2015 risk report from analytics firm CoreLogic deemed more than 1.1 million properties in the western United States highly vulnerable to a wildfire. "It is truly a when, not if," Sen McVay, a homeowner in Evergreen, Colo., said regarding the idea that a wildfire could set his wooded community ablaze, John Roach reports NBC News.

The cost to rebuild the vulnerable homes would be $269 billion, according to the report. "There is a real opportunity to do more preventative action before [wildfire] becomes a bigger problem," said Toddi Steelman, who studies wildfire preparedness at the University of Saskatchewan. Wildfires will become a bigger concern because many baby boomers want to retire in rural settings.

Currently almost a third of homes are in areas adjoining or intermingling with wildlands, according to a 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture report. Jennifer Jones, a spokeswoman with the National Interagency Fire Center, said that if trends continue, "1 million more homes will be built within a half mile of the wildlands by 2030," Roach reports.

To reduce risk of wildfire damage, experts suggest "clearing flammable vegetation such as pine trees, shrubs and wood piles in at least a 30-foot perimeter around the home, using non-combustible construction materials such as ceramic shingles and composite decking instead of wood and installing wire mesh over vents to prevent windblown embers from flying in," Roach writes.

Whole neighborhoods should take these precautions to create a "large defensible space . . . and enable the fire responders, the firefighters, to do their jobs more effectively," said Thomas Jeffery, a senior hazard scientist at CoreLogic.

McVay said it was challenging to find insurance for his home. The insurer he found charged higher rates and required him to create a defensible space around his home. (Read more)

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