Canadian Underwriter

ICLR to host webinar on exposure of buildings to wildfire

October 10, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) will be hosting a webinar later this month on vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies related to exposure of buildings to wildfire.

The webinar, to be held from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EDT on Oct. 20, will focus on common vulnerabilities of a building to a wind-blown ember exposure, and mitigation strategies, both in terms of materials and design features, that can improve the ability of a building to survive.

The presentation will feature Steve Quarles, the chief scientist for wildfire and durability with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). Quarles joined the IBHS Research Center team in 2011 and assists with research using his expertise on building performance with regard to wildfire and moisture exposures. Prior to joining IBHS, he worked for the University of California as a cooperative extension advisor, where he addressed durability and in-service performance issues of wood-framed buildings, particularly those subjected to wildfires.

During 2007 and 2008, Quarles worked part-time for the California Office of the State Fire Marshal, where he developed, coordinated and served as an instructor for the educational program related to the Wildland Urban Interface (wildfire) Building Code and Standards (Chapter 7A in the California Building Code). He earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech (Blacksburg) and a Master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis-St. Paul).

Background information from ICLR notes that the ignitions of buildings during wildfires occur when a combustible component is exposed to one or more of the three basic wildfire exposures: wind-blown burning embers (also called firebrands), radiant heat and direct flame contact. Embers are the most important cause of building ignitions and are generated by the burning wildland or landscape vegetation, and burning structures.

They can ignite buildings either directly or indirectly, ICLR reported. Direct ignition can also occur through accumulation on combustible construction materials, such as a wood shake roof, on combustible decking, or immediately adjacent to combustible materials, such as siding.

Examples of an indirect exposure include ember ignition of vegetation or other combustible materials (e.g., a woodpile or storage shed) located near a building, with subsequent ignition of the building by a radiant and/or direct flame contact exposure. Indirect ignitions can be addressed with careful attention to the selection, location and maintenance of vegetation and other combustibles on the property. In the United States, this area is often referred to as “defensible space.” In Canada, the FireSmart Program uses the term “priority zones.”

“Regardless of the name, the purpose is to minimize the opportunity of the wildfire (or spot fire) to burn directly to, or close enough to, a building (i.e. home or business),” the information said. “Developing and maintaining effective ‘defensible space’ will minimize the chance of this happening.”

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