Defensible space and fire resistant building materials saves property

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“When it looks like it’s snowing and it’s 90 degrees outside, that’s not a good thing,” recalled Darren Borgedalen of Mountain Ranch, a community in rural Calaveras County, Calif. The “snow” Borgedalen was referring to actually was ash from the Butte Fire that swept his property in September, 2015. It burned through more than 70,000 acres, mostly in Calaveras County, damaging or destroying more than 1,000 homes.

On the afternoon of Sept. 10, 2015, the Borgedalens could see the smoke in the distance and when Cal Fire drove up their road and told them they should evacuate, they knew it could get bad.

Two of the Borgedalens’ neighbors lost their properties to the wildfire as it consumed the mountain they called home. “Those that cleared were saved,” he said, referring to the trails he had established as a defensible space around his property.

For years Borgedalen and his wife had maintained a defensible space around their property by keeping the underbrush cleared. With the wildfire fast approaching, he brought in his bulldozer and cleared the trail he had established in the previous years. Meanwhile, Mrs. Borgedalen began to clean up any problem areas surrounding the house, garage and workshop before the fire arrived.

Borgedalen had used fire resistant metal roofing and siding on his house and on his garage and shop building, which withstood the extreme heat and the burning embers from the approaching wildfire. Borgedalen recalled that the metal roofing cost about the same as standard Class A-rated shingles, but the installation cost was about one-third less because the larger metal sheets required fewer man-hours than installing an equivalent area of shingles.

Additional information about protecting your property from wildfire can be found at Ready.gov/Wildfires, www.firewise.org, and www.ReadyforWildfire.org.

Last updated March 17, 2021