Wildfire Prevention Tip #15: Fire Embers and Snowflakes

October 27th, 2014

It is generally acknowledged by firefighters and fire experts that embers from a wild fire are more dangerous to homes and structures than the actual flames from the wildfire. Why is this? Well, the flight characteristics of fire embers are very similar to those of snowflakes (the difference being that one "freezes" and the other "burns!!!”). And the fire embers can be blown considerable distances in front of the actual flames of the wildfire itself.

Fire embers can fly through the air on strong winds very similar to snowflakes….they "pile up" and "bunch together" like snowflakes. They gather into corners and tiny crevasses (like under gables of a roof, or under roof tiles, or into open vents, or "up against" wood siding in corners of exterior walls), or against wooden fences. They also can get into your vegetation and yard, landing on dry grasses, leaf piles, stacked cut fireplace wood, plastic or wooden lawn furniture stacked under a wooden deck, etc.

To understand the potential risk on your property, go outside and walk around your house and yard. Visualize blowing snow and where it would stack or pile up in the yard and on the house. Now visualize those little piles as fire embers and think about what will burn. Now, what can you do to eliminate those penetrations and piles from burning?

These are the kinds of concerns that the NWACA teams of assessors look for in their home wildfire risk assessments. The assessors have been certified by the Austin Fire Department and Texas Forest Service, the assessments are free, and you will learn what it takes to harden your home against wildfire. You can also find a great deal of information on how to protect your home and your family from wildfires on the internet. You can start with the www.nwaca.org web site, to see a collection of materials and links on wildfire prevention.

If you would like to better understand the behavior of wildfire embers, there’s a video at this link showing a controlled test of an ember storm:


Comments are closed.