The increasing threat of wildfires has prompted Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) to release a Wildfire Safer Housing Guide for homeowners.
The Guide, available as a booklet or PDF from the FENZ website by searching ‘Wildfire Safer Housing Guide’, recommends ways to strengthen standalone houses to improve their resilience to wildfire.
FENZ says factors such as climate change, open plan design houses, composite building materials and denser populations living closer to forested areas are contributing to the risk of wildfires. The Guide highlights the Lake Ōhau fire of 2020 which destroyed 48 homes and over 5000 hectares of land.
‘Why some structures were lost while others survived was largely due to the specific fire conditions and how each house presented to the ever-changing fire front,’ read the Guide.
‘Understanding how wildfires can ignite a house will help you to take steps to reduce this risk. Direct flames can ignite anything flammable in their path so having breaks in the path will reduce this threat. Embers can travel more than 2km from a fire (and sometimes further when there are strong upper winds). The greatest risk is that these embers reach the house and find ready fuels to ignite a fire.’
FENZ’s general recommendations are to:
• Avoid or minimise using flat roofs. Houses with simple sloping roofs and building layouts without extra corners/junctions perform better
• Don’t install flammable attachments such as wooden decks
• Minimise using flammable construction materials, especially on the house exterior
• Don’t install single glazed windows. Double glazing and triple glazing has performed much better in wildfires, with the inner glass remaining intact despite the outer layer of glass breaking and falling out.
Compliance with the Guide is voluntary – the recommendations are additional to what is required by the Building Code.
Reducing fire risk
Federated Farmers has a fire fact sheet which includes tips for farmers and rural property owners.
These include reducing fire fuels on properties by mowing grass often or removing dead vegetation, creating a fire break around the property, having a water source that can easily be accessed and providing clear access for emergency vehicles.
‘Often the most destructive fires are started accidently, but they are most likely the result of human activities. When conditions are dry, we encourage you to take care while working on the farm and take proactive actions to reduce the fire risk on your property,’ read the fact sheet.