Ways to make home safe

Letter to Editor
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Ten years ago, I witnessed an amazing pattern in what makes a home safe from wildfires and what doesn’t. A friend was showing me around the large valley where she lives near the town of Oregon House, about halfway between Nevada City and Oroville as the crow flies. They had a huge wind-driven fire burn through there in 1997, destroying over 100 homes. As we drove around, I wondered why some homes in the path of the fire survived, while others burned to the ground. Her explanation surprised me. “All the homes with metal roofs survived, and all the homes with shingle roofs burned, if they were in the path of the fire.” She said the fire rained cinders down from the sky. With so much heat radiating onto homes from the approaching fire, the mineral surface asphalt roofs on most homes started burning when the cinders landed on them at that high temperature. Another friend told me he thought his home was fire-safe because it had a terracotta tile roof. But when fire came through, all those spaces between the tiles sucked the fire in, and it went up like a torch. I also noticed that the fire had missed the woman and her neighbors, whose asphalt-shingled homes were along a creek, a little lower than most of the places that burned. So I’m thinking a creekside home, a metal roof, and maybe metal or stucco siding, is the cat’s meow in fire country. Gordon Ainsleigh, Meadow Vista