Five ways to fireproof your home

Although you can't prevent a faraway spark from igniting a wildfire, there are some things you can do to minimize damage to your property -- and the chance that you'll need to make a home insurance claim. Here are five ways to fireproof your home.

Apply fire-retardant chemicals

Several companies offer fire-retardant sprays that a professional can apply to at-risk areas of your home and yard. These retardants include Phos-Chek an environmentally friendly chemical that the U.S. Forest Service uses to limit the scope of fires) and Class A foam, according to Chartis, an insurer that offers complementary fire-retardant treatments to customers who have certain policies. Such chemicals work by creating a barrier between the fire and the structure or by creating a chemical reaction that slows the fire.

Eliminate vegetation and other debris

Beautiful greenery may flourish in your yard. But it can pave a path from the fire to your home. Dead or dry vegetation is the riskiest. During the dry season, consider pruning dry or flammable shrubbery or hiring a contractor to do this work for you. The Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA) recommends creating at least 30 feet of space between your property and vegetation.

Limit roof combustibility

So-called "complex" roofs -- with lots of ridges and valleys -- can be particularly susceptible to fire damage, because windblown embers can catch on the ridges and valleys, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety IBHS). In addition to applying fire-retardant chemicals, consider upgrading the materials used on your roof, regularly cleaning off debris like pine needles and leaves) and inspecting and replacing broken shingles. A material called bird stop can seal open edges to prevent potential fuel sources, such as birds' "nesting" materials, from getting under the roof covering.

Clean your gutters

Debris from trees and vegetation borne by the wind can accumulate in gutters. Debris can cause structural damage to your gutters and even to your house, which may provide space for embers to blow in, according to IBHS. Debris also can catch fire, particularly during the dry season.

Protect your windows

A heat differential driven by an outside fire can cause exposed glass to crack and even shatter inward. According to IBHS, a window will break after one to three minutes of exposure to intense heat or flames. The California Building Code recommends that buildings constructed in wildfire-prone areas use dual-pane windows.

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