Home / Guidance / Home Disaster Guides / Wildfire Ready Home

Prepare and Protect Your Home from Wildfire

In a wildfire disaster, homes are ignited by embers, flames and/or radiant heat. Embers pose the greatest threat as wind can carry them ahead of a fire front, igniting spot fires in and around residential areas. In neighborhoods where hundreds of homes are lost, IBHS has documented and tested vulnerable factors in and around homes. We can’t stop the wildfire, but IBHS has the science to provide measures to reduce property losses and prevent avoidable suffering. These are the specific actions homeowners can take.

Start with Critical Prep

Protecting your home from wildfire requires a system of proactive measures. By combining the following critical actions, preparing your home and creating defensible space, you significantly improve the likelihood of your home’s survival.

Wildfire Ready Home Prep Guide 

Know what steps will significantly improve the likelihood of your home’s survival.


1) Create a wildfire plan for your family and home

Having a wildfire plan in place ensures the safety of you and your family. In the event of an evacuation, a plan enables you to make time-sensitive decisions, communicate clearly, safeguard important documents and proactively implement measures to prevent damage to your home.

  • A wildfire plan should include the following:
    • Compile a list of emergency contacts including fire, police, family, neighbors, friends, and your insurance agent.
    • Identify and map out an evacuation plan for your family, including a designated meeting place and multiple evacuation routes. Know where your evacuation centers and shelters are located.
    • Create a communications plan for how you will communicate with family during a wildfire event.
    • Prepare an emergency supply kit that includes important documents.
    • Identify who will complete last-minute home prep to remove combustible items and debris around your home.
    • Purchase fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and hoses.
    • Create an evacuation plan for pets.
  • Know how to open your garage door when the power is out.
  • Stay informed:
    • Download the FEMA App to receive alerts from the National Weather Service.
    • Sign up for community alerts in your area.
    • Enable Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) on your cell phone.
  • Know what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t and be sure to document your belongings.
  • Begin proactive critical prep to protect your home before an impending wildfire.
Father explaining to his family the emergency assembly point

2) Check and maintain your roof and gutters

The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home. Embers can travel miles ahead of a fire front and land on your roof and in open gutters. These embers can ignite anything combustible like plastic skylights, wood shake shingles and built-up tree debris.

  • Maintain your roof and gutters by regularly removing all debris, including leaves and pine needles.
  • Replace a wood shake or wood shingle roof with a Class A fire-resistant-rated roof cover. Class A-rated roof covers include most asphalt shingles, tile, slate, and metal roofs.
  • Replace domed, plastic skylights with flat, multipaned, tempered glass skylights.
  • Replace plastic gutters with metal gutters such as aluminum.
2-Check roof and gutters

3) Install ember-resistant vents

Wind-blown embers can enter your home through vents in your attic, roof, gables, and crawlspace and ignite materials inside.

  • Install ember-resistant vents or cover existing vents with 1/8-inch metal wire mesh.
  • Ensure your metal dryer vent has a louver or flap to reduce ember entry. Due to its design and function, wire mesh should not be used on dryer vents.
  • Clean vent screens periodically by removing accumulated debris.
  • Install spark arrestors with ½-inch mesh screening at the outlet of all chimneys.
3-Ember-resistant vents

4) Ensure a 6-inch vertical clearance on exterior wall

Embers accumulate against homes at the base of exterior walls and on other horizontal surfaces like decks that can ignite the home.

  • Ensure there is a minimum of 6 vertical inches (measured from the ground up and from any attached horizontal surface like a deck) of noncombustible siding material, such as fiber-cement, brick, stone, stucco, or exposed concrete foundation.
4- Six inch vertical wall

5) Clear and maintain decks and covered porches

Decks and porches attached to or built near your home provide a path for fire to reach your home. Reducing or eliminating the vulnerabilities of a deck or porch—including items on top of or underneath—reduces the chance your home ignites.

  • On top of the deck or on the porch:
    • Maintain your deck by regularly clearing vegetative debris.
    • Remove combustible furniture, including wood or plastic furniture.
    • Remove large combustible rugs and planters.
    • Choose noncombustible furniture such as cast aluminum or metal furniture.
    • Ensure any items like cushions or door mats are small enough to easily be moved inside on Red Flag days.
  • Underneath the deck:
    • Remove anything stored under the deck or stairs.
    • Remove all vegetation—including grass or weeds—from under the deck and stairs.
  • For decks 4 feet or less (measured from the the ground to the walking surface).
    • Enclose the area underneath to keep debris and embers out by:
      • Installing 1/8-inch or finer metal wire mesh around the outer edge of the walking surface extending to the ground, or
      • Installing a noncombustible wall covering.
5-clear decks and porches


6) Create a 5-foot noncombustible buffer.

During a wildfire, embers can travel miles ahead of a fire front and accumulate at the base of your home’s exterior walls and within the first 5 feet. Anything combustible in this critical zone acts as a fuel source for ignition, increasing the risk of flames spreading to your home.

It is crucial to establish a clear, noncombustible zone that extends 5 feet out from the exterior walls of your home or any nearby structures. This noncombustible area should also be created around attached decks, patios, covered porches and stairs. By implementing this zone, you can significantly reduce potential for ignition.

It is crucial to establish a clear, noncombustible zone that extends 5 feet out from the exterior walls of your home or any nearby structures. This noncombustible area should also be created around attached decks, patios, covered porches and stairs. By implementing this zone, you can significantly reduce potential for ignition.

  • Remove all vegetation, grass, weeds, shrubs, plants, trees, etc.
    • Remove wood mulch, pine straw, rubber mulch, or other combustible ground covers.
    • Trim back branches that overhang the 5-foot area.
    • Do not allow vines to grow on buildings, fences, or other structures within 5 feet of the building.
    • Remove all vegetation and groundcover in the first 5 feet
  • Install 5-feet of hardscape around your home
    • Install hard groundcover material such as gravel, pavers, river rocks, steppingstones, or concrete.
    • Install 5 feet of hard groundcover surrounding any decks or covered porches, including under the stairs.
  • Replace combustible fencing within 5 feet
    • Replace any wood or plastic fencing and gates located within 5 feet of the home with a noncombustible fence, such as metal (aluminum or chain link).
  • Maintain the 5-foot Noncombustible Zone
    • Routinely clear tree debris, weeds, grass, and dead plant material.
    • Do not park or store any vehicles, boats, RVs, or ATVs within 5 feet of the home. Ideally, store these items in a closed garage or park them at least 30 feet away from the home.
    • Do not store anything combustible such as firewood, potted plants, outdoor furniture, trash cans, pet houses, lawn tools, children’s playsets, etc., in this zone.
6-Zone 0_option 1
6-Zone 0_option 2
6-Zone 0_option 3

7) Extend your Defensible Space (5-30 feet)

Embers blown from miles away can easily start spot fires around your home. Creating and maintaining defensible space on your property will slow the spread of fire and reduce flame intensity near your home. By spacing out bushes and trees, you are removing ladder fuels that allow fire to spread and reducing the intensity of a fire near your home.

  • Maintain the yard
    • Cut grass to at most 4 inches and keep watered.
    • Routinely clear tree debris such as leaves and pine needles. Make sure areas around fences and underneath gates are clear of debris, as this is another area where embers can collect.
    • Remove dead vegetation, including piles from pruning and firewood.
    • Firewood should be stored 30 feet from any structures and/or cover it with a fire-resistant cover.
  • Trim trees
    • Remove tree branches less than 6 feet above the ground.
    • Trim upper branches of trees to ensure at least 10 feet of space between the canopies of neighboring trees.
    • Work with your neighbors to address trees near the property line that affect both properties.
    • Ask your power company to remove branches that are near power lines. Never attempt to do this job yourself.
  • Shrubs
    • Choose low growing, fire-resistant plants.
    • Relocate any shrubs located under or near trees.
    • Keep low-growing bushes and shrubs spaced out or in small groupings (no more than 3 shrubs) that will result in a discontinuous path of vegetation.
    • Remove any hedges or rows of bushes that will create more fuel and a pathway for fire to reach your home.
  • Maintain small structures near your home (i.e., sheds, pergolas, and playsets)
    • Place structures at least 10 feet away from the home or any attached decks.
    • Create a 5-foot Noncombustible Zone around each structure.
    • Ensure there is a minimum of 6 vertical inches (measured from the ground up) of noncombustible siding material at the base of each structure or any horizontal surfaces such as a wooden playset, just as you would for your home. For an elevated structure like a shed, enclose the base with no larger than 1/8-inch or finer metal wire mesh.
    • If you have multiple structures, such as a shed and playset, ensure these structures are spaced at least 10 feet apart. Have at most 3 of these structures within 30 feet.
7- Extend defensible space 5-30

Critical Home Prep

These fundamental, critical steps serve as a starting point before progressing to the next set of actions. If you’re ready, proceed to Exterior Home Upgrades.

Exterior Home Upgrades

After addressing the critical prep, this group of larger home improvements will give your home additional levels of protection. 

Wildfire-Resistant Yard

When defensible space is thoughtfully created and well-maintained, it will increase the likelihood your home will survive a wildfire. 

Home Evacuation Steps

When wildfire may threaten and time allows, follow theselast-minute steps to protect your home. 

Wildfire Prepared Home

If you reside in California and have completed all critical home prep, you can apply for a designation to receive a certificate to show your insurer.