When most Americans witness distraught homeowners frantically fleeing their homes with just a few scant belongings in the face of a raging wildfire, it’s usually on T.V.
The cedar shade sided house that insurance, fire, emergency management officials and other experts watched partially burn Tuesday in Chester County was a demonstration of how embers from a wildfire can almost unwittingly attack a house and quickly take it down.
Ember storms, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, which conducted the fire demonstration, pose the greatest ignition danger to homes and businesses when wildfires meet urban areas.
“It used to be that there was a wildfire season, and it was in different parts of the country at different times of the year,” said Julie Rochman, the institute’s president and CEO, who also conducted a roundtable among many of the parties connected to home and business construction and fire protection and prevention. “But because of the drought, we have had in some areas and because winter hasn’t been severe enough in some places to have a lot of snow pack melt, wildfire season really has become a year-round issue.”
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Four U.S. congressmen and Gov. Nikki Haley visited the institute Tuesday for the demonstration, discussion and other activities.
“The learning that we’re doing here will benefit people all over the nation,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, 5th District congressman and a home builder.
Rochman said it is important to educate people about cleaning out their gutters, choosing the right kind of mulch, and not storing combustible materials such as gasoline for the lawn mower beneath outdoor decks in order to protect against fires from ember showers.
With the advent of more natural disasters, the institute and industry players are studying ways to get ahead of potential calamities – in this case wildfires, though the institute also has taken on hurricanes and other disasters seeking to make people safer.
Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania 9th District representative and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, who attended, called the demonstration facility “a national asset.”
“We (know) that these hurricanes and natural disasters seem to be getting bigger and damage certainly is much larger,” Shuster said, citing Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina as evidence.