Wildfires are a common, natural, and essential occurrence in the forests, woodlands, brushlands, and grasslands of the United States and Canada. When conditions are acceptable, fire professionals use fire to revitalize the ecosystem and reduce accumulated vegetation that can become fuel. Wildfires often pose a threat to lives, property, and resources. During an average fire season, hundreds of homes are damaged or destroyed by wildfire, and in extreme fire conditions, thousands of homes can be damaged or destroyed. Severe fire weather in areas with significant amounts of wildland fuels can lead to extreme fire behavior. Wildland fuels vary throughout the United States. In the Pacific Northwest and the Lake States, forests are the predominate wildland fuel. In southern California, chaparral brush predominates. The plains states have grass and oak woodlands, New Jersey has Pine Barrens, and the southeast has pine and hardwood forests.
Wildfires can damage buildings through direct flame contact, convection (heat that rises from a fire and creates a smoke column), conduction (heat that transfers through material such as metal roofs and railings), and radiation (heat from a fire next to the building). Wildfires can also create burning embers that rise in the smoke column and fall on buildings. Firebrands (large pieces of wind-driven, burning material) can be blown through windows or lodged against a building and lead to ignition of the building. Traditional efforts to protect buildings from wildfires have focused on fighting the fire before it reaches the buildings. As more homes are built in or near wildfire zones, protecting homes from wildfires becomes even more important. Valiant efforts are made by firefighters to protect life and property. Increased planning to prepare property and structures to better withstand wildfires could save homes and reduce the risk to firefighters.
This course introduces basic principles of home construction in wildfire zones using fire protection methods. This course is based on the publication “Homebuilder’s Guide to Home Construction in Wildfire Zones”.
This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end and is intended to provide 7 hours of professional development.
Course Author: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
At the conclusion of this course, the student will have learned or been exposed to the following:
- Understanding the hazards associated with homes located in wildfire zones
- Being able to prioritize fire resistant construction
- Knowing how to make fire resistant construction recommendations
- Knowing how to select construction sites to minimize wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of roofs to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of eaves to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of overhangs to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of soffits to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of exterior walls to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of vents to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of gutters and downspouts to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of windows and skylights to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of exterior doors to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of foundations to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the exposure of decks and other attached structures to wildfire hazards
- Understanding the use of fire sprinklers to protect homes
- Knowing how to protect utilities and exterior equipment from wildfires
- Being able to evaluate community infrastructure pertaining to wildfires
- Knowing how to evaluate topography to protect homes from wildfires
- Knowing how to manage vegetation to protect homes from wildfires
- Being introduced to the concept of defensible spaces in a wildfire zone
- Knowing the basic concepts of preparing a home for wildfires