David Ropeik is a risk perception consultant who thinks, writes and talks about "the risk perception gap," our human tendency to worry about things we shouldn't and to NOT worry about things we should. For example, many people are afraid to travel by air, but if they really want to be safer they would avoid traveling by car (more than 30,000 Americans die every year in car crashes). If we want to live less dangerously from wildfire, what are things to worry about - and not worry about?
When it comes to our homes and wildfire, many people worry that the big flames of a wildfire will burn everything in their path, including homes and businesses. While homes can indeed burn due to large flames, it turns out that our common perception of how wildfires usually burn down homes belie the facts. Scientific post-fire investigations, modeling and experimental research are all showing that if we want our homes to survive, we shouldn't worry as much about the big flames, and instead focus on the little things - embers or firebrands that blow in ahead of the flames, pile up in vulnerable areas on and around your home, enter vents and openings, and ignite your home.
The good news is, there is much we can do to create effective protection against ember impacts by using basic Firewise principles and learning more specifics about vulnerable areas of our homes. Check out the highlights from the IBHS Research Center's ember storm test to learn more about how embers ignite homes, then visit DisasterSafety.org to learn more about how to protect decks, patios and porches and how to minimize risks from embers entering vents in your roof or eaves.