A wildfire inspection is pretty much what it sounds like: It’s an inspection that specifically evaluates your home’s wildfire risk and helps you understand what modifications you can make that may mitigate that risk. Some homeowners may need a wildfire inspection to obtain or renew their home insurance.
What does a wildfire inspection look for?
A wildfire inspector looks for specific circumstances with your home and its surroundings that can make it more susceptible to catching fire or burning quickly. In general, that means the inspector will make sure the home is in good condition and that trees are not hanging over or too close to the roof lines.
The inspector will also look closely at specific features of your home to check for potential fire hazards, including the:
Roof. Your roof is the most vulnerable part of your home, especially if it has wood shingles.
Vents. Vents on homes create openings for flying embers and flames.
Trees and vegetation. Excessive vegetation around or near a home can add fuel to any fire or help quickly ignite a spark.
Fire inspectors may also note other areas that can fuel a wildfire. These include:
Wood fences and decks
Siding, roofs, and gutters
Who needs a wildfire inspection?
Homes in heavily forested, dry, or grassy areas likely need periodic wildfire inspections. This may be especially true of homes in what’s known as the wildland urban interface (WUI). The WUI is defined as the line, area, or zone where human development meets undeveloped wildland.
Some home insurance companies might require a fire inspection before they agree to cover a home or renew an existing policy. This is most common in high-risk states like Arizona and California.
Homeowners in these areas may also receive requests to cut back trees and thin vegetation that is too close to a home. The goal is to minimize anything that can fuel a wildfire or even to create defensible space for your home.
Why are wildfire inspections necessary?
A wildfire inspection can help you see where you have fire risk and provide steps for minimizing it. Unfortunately, wildfire risk may be greater than most homeowners think.
The US has seen approximately 70,000 wildfires per year since 1983, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Moreover, the EPA notes that area burned appears to be increasing, too. The 10 years with the largest acreage burned all occurred between 2004 and 2022.
Wildfires also spread quickly and cause billions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses – particularly in the arid west. Between 2022 and 2023, wildfires accounted for over $8.8 billion in property damage across the country. Worse? Experts have found a correlation between warmer summer temperatures and large fire years.
How to harden your home against wildfires
There are a variety of methods that homeowners in high-risk fire areas can use to harden their homes against wildfire.
Use composite, clay, metal, or tile roofs that are less susceptible to fire than wood shingles.
Block any spaces between roof decking and covering to prevent embers from catching.
Remove debris and dried vegetation from your roof.
Cover all vent openings with 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch metal mesh.
Use ember and flame-resistant vents.
Eaves, soffits, windows, and gutters
Protect eaves by boxing them in with flame-resistant or noncombustible materials.
Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass.
Keep rain gutters clear or enclose rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris.
Build decks that are within ten feet of your home out of flame-resistant or noncombustible materials.
Store combustible items away from your deck.
Separate your fence from your house or convert the section closest to the house to a non-combustible material.
Another important consideration is your water supply. If you live in a high-risk fire area, consider having multiple long garden hoses that can reach all areas of your home, as well as your garage, fence, deck, or any other structures. If you have a pool or well, consider getting a pump that allows you to use the water during an emergency.
Hardening your home against fire is a great idea for any homeowner, no matter where you live. And in states like Arizona and California, some home insurance companies may actually require these or other tactics after a wildfire inspection in order to be approved for coverage.