The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety recently conducted the first-ever full-scale wildfire demonstration at the IBHS Research Center as part of an initiative to illustrate how commonly used materials near or on houses can ignite from embers. The studyâ€™s findings will be used to develop best practices for prevention and tactics within the wildland-urban interface, including what homeowners can do to better protect their homes from the threat of wildfire, said Dr. Tim Reinhold, IBHS' senior vice president of research and chief engineer.
Previous field research showed that it is not direct flame contact that causes many buildings to burn during wildfires. Rather, embers ignite vegetation, debris and flammable materials. Reinhold said such theory was tested in a controlled environment that let researchers reproduce ember storms typical of wildfire events, including the along-wind and across-wind turbulence characteristics of natural winds occurring in wildfire and embers carried in those winds.
Reinhold said such ember storms lead to ignition of the exterior of a house. In addition, embers are blown into buildings through gable vents, and extreme heat radiating from the wildfire can preheat vegetation and building materials, damage siding materials and break windows.
â€śThese effects can greatly increase the likelihood that a home will ignite,â€ť Reinhold said.
Federal and local agencies that participated include the U.S. Department of Energyâ€™s Savannah River National Laboratory;â€™s Science & Technology Directorate; Forest Service - Rocky Mountain Research Station; and the Fire Sciences Laboratory. The testing is part of the DHS Securityâ€™s Wildfire Ignition Resistant Home Design Program, a science-based program led by the Savannah River National Laboratory to provide community developers and homeowners the ability to assess and understand fire risks due to a nearby wildfire.
IBHS will conduct another full-scale wildfire demonstration at the IBHS Research Center in South Carolina on April 13, Reinhold said.