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California codes improve fire protection

Taking effect in January, California’s updated wildland-urban interface building codes aim to improve fire protection in vulnerable areas where homes encroach grassy brushlands. The codes will address building materials, construction techniques, and site conditions with regard to the danger posed by burning embers.

A basic strategy for fire avoidance includes two tactics: defensible space and exterior protection. California law already requires houses to have 100 ft. of brush-free area around them.

Because soffit vents provide a direct path for embers to enter a house, they’re on the proverbial hot seat. If a vent doesn’t “resist the intrusion of flame and burning embers,” it’s not allowed. The codes do permit gable and ridge vents as long as they’re installed over 1/4-in. wire mesh. But a better approach might be to design unvented roofs.

For more information about these wildland-urban code updates, visit www.fire.ca.gov/wildland.php.

From Fine Homebuilding192 , pp. 22 November 6, 2007