Devin Doyle of Newport Beach is the owner of several small businesses dealing with equipment, land management and fire safety. In the following article, Devin Doyle discusses planning and protection strategies for businesses in wildfire prone areas.
Until a wildfire strikes, business owners across the country forget that such disasters are a part of the USA’s ecosystem. But with the National Interagency Fire Center stating 43,244 wildfires have ravaged 2,197,812 acres of the country since January 2023, companies in vulnerable areas need to prepare and protect for these otherwise-ruthless flames.
Fierce winds, ignition sources, dry vegetation, and lack of spread-mitigating measures in place fuel wildfires, so a plethora of industry moguls have outlined the best ways for businesses to stay safe and prevent destruction below.
Devin Doyle Explains Defensible Space Creation
Defensible space, otherwise dubbed “buffer zones” by professionals, refers to the space surrounding a brick-and-mortar business that can stop the advancement of wildfires if landscaped and maintained sufficiently.
Devin Doyle of Newport Beach notes that industry participants speak on each zone in the following:
Zone One: Immediate
Extending zero to five feet from the building, the initial buffer defends against direct flame contact. Preparedness professionals note trees and shrubs should be avoided here. Adding gravel or installing other noncombustible materials is a better solution.
Zone Two: Intermediate
Devin Doyle of Newport Beach says that this zone encompasses five to 30 feet from the building or property line, necessitating careful vegetation management to prevent flames from licking into the crown or canopies of trees and spreading to the building.
While experts say trees can exist in this area, they must be properly spaced out, meticulously maintained, and combined with hard surfaces, like concrete sidewalks.
Zone Three: Extended
Covering 30 to 100 feet from the building or property line, this buffer zone is responsible for reducing the energy of a forthcoming wildfire. Brush and trees require spacing in a format that forces tree-crown-based fire to fall.
Vegetative Fuel and Combustible Reduction
Devin Doyle of Newport Beach also notes that dry vegetation fuels the flames. And while plants shouldn’t be within zero to five feet of businesses, as outlined above, the aesthetic appeal is too tempting for many companies. Thus, the shrub characteristics that owners should look out for when purchasing foliage:
- High moisture content
- Low resin or oil content
- Deep roots
- Thick, heavy leaves
- Minimal dead vegetation production
Going a few steps further, businesses must formulate a vegetation maintenance plan to ensure buffer zones are free from dead, dry matter at all times. The plan should include:
- Location of building(s)
- Environmental concerns (e.g., endangered species, state-listed wetlands or species)
- Details on the development and maintenance of defensible space
- Fuel treatment details (e.g., thinning, prescribed burning)
Devin Doyle of Newport Beach says that business owners must consult qualified foresters, natural resource specialists, or range managers for a properly detailed and executed vegetation maintenance plan.
Class A Roof and Commercial Sprinkler Installation
Roofs are critical safeguards against wildfires — particularly airborne burning embers. Steep- and low-slope variants are rated from Class A to C, depending on fire resistance. The former offers the best protection.
Company buildings in vulnerable locations with unrated roofs (i.e., those made of wood or other materials) should consider re-roofing with Class A materials, such as low-sloped, stone-ballasted, single-ply models. Steep-sloped roofs made with concrete and slate, clay, asphalt shingles, or metal are also common.
Devin Doyle of Newport Beach says that professionals urge business owners not to forgo installing commercial sprinkler systems; they’re a crucial line of defense that minimizes property damage and saves lives by stopping flames in their tracks. Consisting of water-filled pipes in the ceiling, each sprinkler is designed to detect fires and automatically trigger showers to prevent the spread.
Disaster Recovery Plan Development
Devin Doyle of Newport Beach also notes that proper fire mitigation strategies and designated buffer zones considerably limits the risk of facility devastation. However, wildfires can never be fully prevented. Therefore, companies should have a plan for rapid recovery to hand. According to the brains at AREPA, the plan should make certain that employees:
- Never enter the building until it’s deemed safe to do so. Before anybody re-enters the building, compromised power lines must be checked and everybody should don PPE (e.g., N95 masks, goggles, hard hats, and gloves).
- Verify all equipment is shut down.
- Contact facility cleaning and decontamination partners immediately.
- Air the building out to remove soot and smoke.
- Clean the exterior of all soot- and ash-drenched equipment. Typically, buildings require complete decontamination, but removing such items from the outside can prevent further damage.
In conclusion, wildfire preparedness is the key to reducing the destruction of life, limb, and livelihood.