Forests and homes in the western part of the U.S. are being ravaged by wildfires, causing record-breaking damage. This summer, the largest wildfire in California history destroyed more than 1,000 homes in its path. In 2017 the state experienced a shattering $10 billion in wildfire-related damages. While the climate continues to evolve, wildfire hazards are here to stay, and they aren’t just isolated to California. In the U.S. alone, wildfires have been active across the West Coast, from Seattle down to Southern California and as far east as Texas.
Wildfires thrive in dry conditions, which are the new normal for regions across the country. According to insurance research firm Verisk, as many as 4.5 million homes in the U.S. are at high or extreme risk of wildfire.
As wildfires become more widespread — and alongside them, high temperatures and persistent drought — there’s a new urgency for builders and homeowners to take proactive steps like using safer products to better protect homes and everything that matters inside.
Siding: A Home’s First Line of Defense
A home’s exterior is its first line of defense against extreme weather and fire. FEMA stresses that fire-resistant siding is critical to avoiding wildfire-related home damage. Among the many benefits, James Hardie® fiber cement siding and trim are non-combustible, to help protect homes from unpredictable weather — and worst-case scenarios like wildfires.
James Hardie fiber cement is made from premium raw materials and proprietary additives, which include cement, water, cellulose fiber, and silica – a common mineral found in beach sand, stone and concrete. It is also used in household products like polishes and cleansers. Silica is naturally fire resistant and is essential to James Hardie fiber cement’s durability and stability to moisture. Silica may sound familiar – it has been in the news lately due to an OSHA rule change impacting contractors and installers. The new OSHA rule requires workers to take steps to reduce airborne silica dust while cutting or grinding silica containing products. However, the products themselves pose no safety issues for homeowners and in fact can help protect your home.
James Hardie fiber cement has been tested by various IAS Certified Laboratories to ASTM International standards. The results: not only is James Hardie non-combustible, it also has a flame spread index of zero and a smoke developed index of < 5. That’s protection for your home and your family.
Some wood and vinyl sidings are combustible and will ignite and add fuel to a fire. According to University of California researcher Stephen Quarles, combustible siding, like wood and vinyl, can make your home vulnerable to wildfire by making it easier for fire to penetrate through a horizontal or vertical lap joint between individual pieces of siding, into the stud cavity and then into the living space of a home. If no one is present to extinguish the fire, the home could be lost. When wildfires are present, more homes burn due to contact with embers than flames, and it’s times like these where non-combustible exterior siding can add an extra layer of protection to your home.
During a typical house fire, fiber cement siding — when combined with certain 1-hour related Warnock Hersey and UL assemblies, will make a wall assembly that resists flames and heat damage for as long as an hour, buying homeowners and firefighters critical time to extinguish flames before extensive damage is done. Because of its non-combustible properties, James Hardie siding is recognized by fire departments nationwide.*
Looking Toward the Future of Wildfire Protection
As devastating as the 2018 wildfires have been, experts predict that they will continue to get worse over time as annual temperatures creep higher and conditions get drier. For these reasons, it’s necessary to look toward the future and develop long-term solutions to better protect homes before disaster strikes.
James Hardie is committed to safety. We provide extensive, up-to-date safety training resources to contractors and installers. Plus, we invest more than $20 million every year in research and development to continue offering innovative, durable and fire-resistant products.
Our commitment to safety helps you protect your home and family for tomorrow and for years to come.
* James Hardie siding complies with ASTM E136 as a noncombustible cladding and is recognized by fire departments across the U.S. including Marietta, GA, Flagstaff, AZ and Orange County, CA. Fiber cement fire resistance does not extend to applied paints or coatings, which may be damaged or char when exposed to flames.