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5 Ways to fireproof your house

By Athenkosi Sawutana

Are you living in a fire starter where your home could go up in flames any minute?

It’s a fact that some homes are more prone to fire than others. A tragic example of this is the horrific 2017-Knysna wildfires in which people lost their lives and homes.

According to research that was commissioned by Santam, it was the worst wildfire disaster in the history of South Africa. These homes were surrounded by natural vegetation, making them a fire risk.

More than 900 houses were destroyed, and it took two weeks to control the fires, according to  a report by Richards Walls, head of the Stellenbosch University Fire Engineering Research Unit.

Tip: Make sure that your house is protected by clicking here.

How can you fireproof your house? Justmoney learnt five things you can do to improve safety and reduce the risk of damages.

1. It starts with the material

Replacing combustive home construction materials with more fire-resistant ones is the first step to fireproof your house.

Make sure that your roof, windows, walls, decks, eaves, and gutters are made of fire- or ignition-resistant material. For instance, your walls must be built with cement instead of boards, and your windows must be made of aluminium instead of wood.

2. Create a defensible space

One of the ways you can do this is by ensuring that your trees and branches are not higher than the roof. It’s therefore important to always trim and prune branches and trees.

Trees or shrub vegetation that are too close to the house increase the chances of fire reaching your home, whereas short vegetation and a cleared area will create a safer space.

3. Keep combustible material away from the house

Having combustible materials around your home can increase the chances of fire. There should be no firewood, combustible vegetation, and diesel close to your house.

4. Remove dry leaf litter from gutters

Gutters can be beneficial when you want to keep water away from your home. However, they also need to be constantly cleaned to ensure that no leaves are collecting inside them. Dry leaves can easily catch or spread the fire.

5. Ensure your plants are not combustible

Make sure you plant vegetation that’s not readily combustible and keep your lawn short. Plants that have high resin, dry and fine leaves, or rough bark, such as Acacia, and Bamboo trees can easily catch fire and reduce your house to ashes.

What about insurance?

John Lomberg, head of stakeholder relations at Santam, says you need to make sure you’re adequately covered.

“Homeowners must buy a comprehensive cover that will cover both the structure of their house and the contents inside the house.”

During another recent fire in Wupperthal, many residents lost their homes and their possessions – and they were not insured. Have a look at our article about this.

Home insurance has two components: buildings and home content, says Lomberg. 

Buildings insurance will help you rebuild your house, but it won’t replace the items inside the house. Since no one wants to live in an empty house, home insurance is a good idea. Also, make sure that you specify all the important items in your house.

“Go to every room in your house and take stock of everything – especially those things that you value the most,” Lomberg says.

He also points out that you should insure your house for its replacement value.

“Many homeowners do not update their policies. If you extend or renovate your house, inform your insurer, or you will only be compensated for the value before the renovations,” says Lomberg.

He says that you need to educate yourself about the consequences of living in a fire-prone environment. In addition to that, you need to ensure that your home is properly evaluated.

In his research report, Walls urged communities to work together by setting up fire-wise communities. One fire-prone house could start a chain reaction endangering all the other homes in its proximity.

If you are looking for low home insurance premiums, click here.

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