A Fire-Resistant Home? Here are Materials That Should be Used for Homes in the Fire Zone

A man built his vacation home in the fire zone, and when the Thomas Fire blazed through, it reached his property. But it didn't burn it down. He says it's due to his fire-resistant design and materials, and officials are saying it's the way to go.

As Woolsey Fire victims start to rebuild their homes, fire experts say they need to rethink how they rebuild. And maybe they should be doing it the way Jeremy wolf did — rebuilding with specific materials to prevent their home from burning down in a future fire.

"It’s a beautiful place to spend time," said Jeremy Wolf about his weekend home in Ojai Valley. He built the house five years ago, and knew he had to rebuild wisely.

"We knew we were building in a wildfire zone," Wolf said. "We wanted to build something that was as fire resistant as possible."

Wolf said it all started with an architect, Abeer Sweis, who said she’s taking calls every day about building fire resistant homes.

So how do you build a fire resistant home?

For Wolf, he used concrete blocks for the exterior walls.

All the windows are double-paned, tempered glass — making it more challenging for heat to break through.

The horizontal surfaces — like the balcony, where embers could land — are made of a fireproof material.

The railings are metal, and the roof is steel. Wolf didn’t use much wood, and where he did — it’s a think, timber grade.

"Anything that can burn would be difficult to ignite," Wolf said.

Wolf said it cost him 10-15 percent more to build this way. And it paid off. The Thomas Fire ripped through the area just over a year ago.

"The phrase 'It looked like Armageddon' is a little overused, but it did feel that way," Wolf said.

The scars are still visible on the valley’s landscape. But Wolf’s home was untouched.

"The fire actually came on the property," he said. "We were very relieved, and very relieved that we’d chosen to build this way."

Verdugo Academy Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna said Wolf and Sweis did everything right. He encourages other homeowners to rethink how they rebuild.

"What we do is build homes just the same way we have in the past, we repeat it," DiGiovanna said. "And history repeats itself."

"If I was to build another home in this area, I’d build the exact same way," Wolf said.

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