April 18, 2024
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By Tracy Loew

David Blunck, a fire researcher who has studied wildfires for years, is devoted to the study of how they spread.

His academic research took a personal turn in September 2020 when a fire neared the home of his parents in Canby.

Blunck is an associate professor in mechanical engineering and he knew there was no danger from flames that engulfed the house. It was caused by firebrands – windblown embers. These can be carried a distance of up to a mile, igniting new flames.

It was “just really eye-opening,” said he. It is important that everyone takes responsibility in protecting their homes, including those on the “greener” side of Oregon.

Blunck’s Wildfire Research Found

Blunck’s team, at OSU, tests variables like temperature, windspeed, wood species, and tree sizes to see how they affect the formation and movement of firebrands.

Firebrands may be the primary cause for some fires.

A small wind tunnel was used in a lab to examine the firebrand formation on dowels of various types of wood.

Their groundbreaking research was done in the field. They burned pre-cut timber and measured the amount of embers they released.

Blunck stated that they gained insight into the species of trees which tend to emit more firebrands. They also learned how many there are per tree.

The researchers found it surprising that when comparing the size of the trees to the total mass they burn, larger ones actually produce fewer flames.

The average heat flux from firebrands produced by Douglas fir species and those with sagebrush species (with short needles) was an order-of-magnitude higher than that of the ponderosa pin species.

Blunck explained that models can now predict the behavior of fires using research results.

The Joint Fire Science Program and National Institute of Standards and Technology provided funding for this project.

Blunck is now interested in how firebrands are formed and propagated from buildings. He has requested funding for a repeat of his experiment using sheds, rather than trees.

What is the best way to conduct research on firebrands?

Blunck protected his parents’ house from wildfires by walking around it during the 2020 fire season. The Bluncks recommend that homeowners follow his example.

If a resident asked themselves if they could start a fire if an object like a lit match or a cigarette was dropped in their neighborhood, and took steps to eliminate the risk, he added, “that would be a big, great step.”

It could be that you simply remove bark dust, flammable vegetation, and replace it with gravel. Or, keep leaves and needles away from roofs and gutters.

He stated that it is beneficial to have screens above windows.

The screen could help keep firebrands out of the home if there is a break in a glass window, something that can happen when battling blazes.

Even homeowners may want to install perforated roof soffits that allow air to circulate in attics.

“Those all reduce the risk to homes,” said he. They can have an impact on the result of the structure or house, even though they don’t directly control the catastrophe.

Fire safety in homes

Firewise USA, a nationwide program, teaches home owners how to make their houses fireproof, minimize the chance of a house igniting and reduce combustible materials. They also teach them about emergency evacuation plans, how they can reduce fuels prone to catching on fire, as well as other techniques that will help save lives in case of blazes.

Below are some tips on how to lower the fire risk in homes.

Home hardening: To make your house less susceptible to fire spread, you can harden the home’s structure. The use of fire resistant materials and modifications can help reduce the vulnerability of your home to radiant heat and embers. The following are critical aspects to home hardening:

Roofs and sidings: Select materials with Class A ratings for roofs and sidings such as tile, metal or asphalt.

Window and vents: Use vent covers that are resistant to embers and install tempered-glass windows.

To prevent the accumulation of embers, use materials that are non-combustible for your eaves and Soffits.

Decks, fences and decking: Choose fire-resistant materials for decking. Create a safe space under decks. Consider using metal or other non-combustible materials for fencing.

Doors: Opt for fire-resistant exterior doors, including garage doors.

Create a safe area around your house by removing flammable plants and other materials. These can be used as fuel in wildfires. The fires will not reach your home, and firefighters can work in a protected area. Key practices for creating defensible space include:

In Zone 0, use materials that are non-combustible, such as stone or gravel. Leaves, debris and other flammable materials should be removed.

Zone 1: Expand 30 feet away from the house, by reducing vegetation that is flammable, by thinning out trees, and by spacing plants in order to keep fires from reaching the tree crowns.

Zone 2: Keep trees well spaced out and pruned. Reduce shrub density.

Zone 3: Keep trees at a healthy distance of 200 feet and eliminate dead vegetation.

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Start by exploring the styles and types of shingles available. Asphalt, wood and metal are just some examples. They all offer unique benefits, both in cost and appearance. Knowing about the different options available can help you select the right roofing shingles that best suit your needs.

A roofing expert is recommended if you plan to replace or install roof shingles. You can get expert advice from them on which shingles are best for you based on your design, budget, climate and other factors. Additionally, the experts can provide guidance for proper roof maintenance to ensure that your roof lasts as long as possible.

It is important to prioritize the quality and health of your roof. The first step in ensuring the protection and durability of your home is understanding the roof shingles. You can make an informed decision by exploring the best roof shingle alternatives and talking to experts at https://universalroofs.ca/, whether you plan a project for your home or are addressing existing problems.

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