Structure loss to wildfire is a serious problem in wildland-urban interface areas across the world. Laboratory experiments suggest that fire-resistant building construction and design could be important for reducing structure destruction, but these need to be evaluated under real wildfire conditions, especially relative to other factors. Using empirical data from destroyed and surviving structures from large wildfires in southern California, we evaluated the relative importance of building construction and structure age compared to other local and landscape-scale variables associated with structure survival. The local-scale analysis showed that window preparation was especially important but, in general, creating defensible space adjacent to the home was as important as building construction. At the landscape scale, structure density and structure age were the two most important factors affecting structure survival, but there was a significant interaction between them. That is, young structure age was most important in higher-density areas where structure survival overall was more likely. On the other hand, newer-construction structures were less likely to survive wildfires at lower density. Here, appropriate defensible space near the structure and accessibility to major roads were important factors. In conclusion, community safety is a multivariate problem that will require a comprehensive solution involving land use planning, fire-safe construction, and property maintenance.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||The importance of building construction materials relative to other factors affecting structure survival during wildfire|
|Series title||International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction|
|Contributing office(s)||Western Ecological Research Center|