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Preparing For Wildfires With Fire-Safe Home Construction And Retrofits

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San Diego County Fire and Building Code Requirements

San Diego County's Wildland-Urban Interface Building Division has specific building codes intended to protect homes against wildfire.

The wildfire threat to homes is increasing and San Diego County is no stranger to that kind of devastation. In 2003, wildfires burned down more than 2,400 homes. Just four years later, 1,300 homes were destroyed in blazes.

Recently, during a panel discussion on Midday Edition, we focused on a statement made by Governor Jerry Brown about California wildfires. The Governor said our climate is changing and we need to prepare for longer fire seasons and more dangerous fires.

During that first discussion, our panel raised the issue of where and how homes are built in Southern California. Home construction is emerging as a major factor in the effort to mitigate wildfire damage.

Having a home in the path of a wildfire doesn't necessarily mean that your home will burn.

Fire scientist Jack Cohen says, "increasing ignition resistance of houses based on non-flammable roofs and cleaning up around (your home) can make a huge difference."

He says, that explains why we have seen some wildfires burn some homes but not others in the same area.

Rick Halsey, director of the California Chaparral Institute says, "after the Witch Creek fire, two studies confirmed that the majority of fires were caused by embers going into vents."

He says there are a couple of products on the market that would allow homeowners to cheaply replace attic vents.

But, Halsey says, there are places in San Diego County that, no matter what you do to your home, you can't prevent it from burning.

"You can't design yourself out of this, there are areas where you just can't protect yourself," he says.

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