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Fire-Proofing Austin Homes

published on August 4, 2012

August can be one of the hottest months in Texas, and heat mixed with dry brush can be an easy recipe for kindling. Electrical outlets, stove tops, and other household items also can be fire hazards if not cared for properly. Austin’s fire departments are located close to neighborhoods throughout the city, from far north Lake Travis to south Austin’s Rob Roy, and are well trained for dealing with both wild fires and house fires, but a homeowner can give fire fighters a leg up on fighting flames by taking steps to help prevent fires from occurring in the home.

To help prevent or retard a potential fire, consider each element of your home’s design to determine your risk and what you can do to mitigate it. The following parts of a house are areas to survey for fire security: 

1. Roof: A roof is typically rated Class A, Class B or Class C. Use roof coverings with a Class A fire rating, including asphalt fiberglass composition shingles, concrete or clay tiles, and steel or copper roofs. If you don’t know your roof’s rating, schedule an inspection. An Austin Realtor can help recommend a quality home inspector. 

2. Openings to the attic: Airborne embers can enter attics through open eaves or vents. Cover vent openings with 1/8-inch metal screen. 

3. Exterior walls: Make sure the material is ignition-resistant or noncombustible. These include masonry, stucco, brick or fiber cement siding. Vinyl siding can melt. Homes with four side masonry, like many of those in Davenport Ranch, are well fortified to help detour fires. 

4. Windows: Glass can break under heat stress in one to three minutes, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety. Tempered or multipaned glass performs better than single-paned glass. 

5. Foundations and decks: If a home has an open foundation or a deck without skirting, embers or fire can spread underneath the structure. IBHS recommends adding noncombustible skirting around a home with an open foundation and venting that complies with the local building code. Install a metal screen to guard the underside of such structures, and don’t build a deck at the top of a hill, as wildfires tend to travel uphill. Be sure not to store any combustible materials under a deck. 

6. Chimneys. Install spark arrestors and have chimney interiors cleaned periodically. 

7. Connected structures. Combustible decks (wood and wood-plastic composite materials) and fences can ignite. If ignited, they can provide a pathway for the fire to reach your home. Ensure such attachments are made of ignition-resistant or noncombustible materials and don’t store any combustible materials under decks or near fences. 

8. Exterior doors. Have at least two doorways out of the house to provide alternate exits. 

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