Center for Fire Research and Outreach
Center for Fire Research and Outreach
Center for Fire Research and Outreach
University of California
Center for Fire Research and Outreach


Frequently Asked Questions

This assessment is intended to be an educational guide to help homeowners to lessen wildfire hazards on their property. It is important to note that the survey and possible solutions to any questions do not guarantee your home will not be harmed in the event of a wildfire.

Q. How did you determine what questions to ask and how to rate the answers? 
A.This survey was developed as part of a larger research project that involved a survey of the most recent scientific literature on the interactions between wildfire and structures in the wildland-urban interface. The questions that are asked in the survey are designed to help homeowners understand structure-based wildfire vulnerability, and the ratings are based on what is known about how structures are impacted by wildfires. It is important to note that the survey does not take into account important factors such as the effect of nearby wildlands or other homes. This survey is intended solely as an educational and informational tool.

Q. Why do the results of this survey differ from other fire hazard assessments?
A. There are many different approaches to fire hazard assessment, and different approaches may recommend different variables to determine a structure’s vulnerability to wildfire. Often, other types of assessments include things such as evacuation routes, water availability, and proximity to a fire department. The Fire Information Engine’s survey is a science-based approach that is concerned primarily with a structure’s resistance to fire, regardless of any fire suppression, and therefore asks a different set of questions and may return different results. The survey is intended as an educational and informational tool, and may be used in addition to other types of surveys.

Q. Why do questions on your survey not necessarily reflect the results of mitigation efforts around our home such as vegetation clearance and tree removal?
A. In relation to vegetation clearance, this survey questions the distance of combustible vegetation to combustible roof, eaves, siding, and deck. If the distance between combustible elements is, as a rule of thumb, less than six feet, your home would be considered more vulnerable to wildfire.

Q. Some of your terms are not really common knowledge, are there descriptions available for the average homeowner in order for them to do a more accurate assessment?
A. There are three sources for extra information. The first is a rollover - leave your mouse over the survey question of interest and more information will be displayed. Next, a printable field guide is available here. In addition, a glossary of common terms can be found here.

Q. Do items such as potted plants on combustible decks, stairs, or porches count as combustible vegetation, vegetative debris, or other combustible material?
A. This would apply if, for example, your pot was made of combustible material, such as a basket. In addition, if your plant is quite large it would constitute the same degree of hazard as a tree, therefore we would advise you to move the plant at least six feet from the combustible siding or deck.

Q. How do these survey results relate to my homeowner's insurance rates?
A. This survey is not targeted at identifying the value, or potential loss in value, of your home. It is instead a survey based on the latest science and targeted at helping homeowners to identify vulnerable components of their homes and yards. The focus is on providing homeowners with the best possible information about preventing losses in the event of a wildland fire. While there is no definitive answer to this question because insurance policy requirements differ from company to company, in general, anything that you can do to mitigate potential damage to your property is going to be seen as a positive by most insurance companies. In addition, most insurance companies already have their own proprietary method(s) for assessing fire risks. Many aspects of our rating system are still being researched and our rating is not intended to be authoritative.

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