The Fourth of July is just around the corner. For most people in America the holiday is filled with family, fun, parades, barbeques, and fireworks. Unfortunately, not everyone is as careful with their fireworks as they should be. In central and south Texas this is especially important during our increasingly hot and dry summer months. Windy conditions only add to the danger, allowing embers and sparks to drift and land on rooftops. Also, the potential for dry brush to catch fire and spread to homes is definitely a risk, but there are measures that you can take to protect your roof and your family this holiday. Keep reading for our Fourth of July roof fire prevention tips!
Fireworks have been a part of the Fourth of July since the founding of our country and are a deep rooted tradition. Founding Father and future president, John Adams, famously wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, declaring that independence festivities should include “illuminations,” or fireworks. He got his wish and fireworks have been associated with the holiday ever since.
These early celebrations did not look like the elaborate fireworks displays that we see today. In fact, they weren’t much more than a small series of explosions and the fireworks were only one color…orange. Modern fireworks weren’t invented until the 1830s and we quickly became enthralled by the sparkles, colors, and sounds associated with them. According to the American Pyrotechnic Association, 404.5 million pounds of fireworks were set off in 2020 alone! That number has increased significantly since the 152.2 million pounds of fireworks used back in 2000.
The sheer increase in the number of fireworks sold and used in this country annually make fire prevention a necessary discussion. Keep reading to learn about how you can protect your roof while still enjoying your Independence Day celebration!
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, an estimated 19,500 fires were started by fireworks during 2018 alone. These fires resulted in deaths, injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage. From the years of 2014 to 2018 more than a quarter of the fires that were started by fireworks were reported on the Fourth of July. These statistics alone make a good case practicing roof fire prevention and safety.
Of the 404.5 million pounds of fireworks consumed in 2020, only 18.7 million pounds consisted of display fireworks. Display fireworks are professional grade, contain more explosive materials, and are used for fireworks shows. 385.8 million pounds of consumer fireworks were used in 2020, which means more households were buying and using fireworks in uncontrolled conditions.
We want to note that we’re all for everyone enjoying their Fourth of July celebrations, but we hope everyone celebrates safely! Because you cannot control everyone around you and embers and sparks can spread in the wind, there are some steps you can take to protect your roof and your property.
A lot of today’s quality roofing materials are treated to be fire resistant, however, some conditions like this year’s extremely hot and dry weather can lead to increased risk for fires. Most roofing materials, including asphalt shingles, carry a fire rating which indicates their level of fire resistance. Shingles, tile, metal and other roofing materials are rated as Class A, Class B, Class C, and some are unrated. The roofing materials that are the most susceptible are unrated. Rather than depending fully on a fire rating, we suggest taking some steps to protect your property from fire. Even if your roof does carry a fire resistant rating, it is not fireproof.
Truthfully speaking, a lot of the measures that you can take to protect your roof from fire are in line with regular roof maintenance. If roof maintenance isn’t something you usually put a lot of thought into, this is a great time of year to get started! The added benefit is that regular roof maintenance can keep you from experiencing roof leaks.
The first step you can take to protect your asphalt shingle roof on the Fourth of July is to cut low hanging branches around your roofline. If fireworks come into contact with the tree limbs or tree branches that are close to, or even touching your roof, it could possibly start a fire. Branches that catch fire can fall off of the tree and land on your roof, igniting it. Simply cutting tree branches back is a major step toward protecting your roof because there is less danger of the branch touching your roof if the tree catches fire.
Aside from offering you potential protection from fires started by fireworks on Independence Day, tree trimming can also help save you from costly roof repairs. Trees that are too close to your roofline or hang over your roof can cause damage to your roof over time. Branches can fall directly onto your roof and tree rub can wear down shingles, leading to roof damage and leaks.
Dry leaves and branches clogging gutters and roof debris is like kindling. If your gutters haven’t been cleaned in some time, they may be packed with dry leaves, making them a tinderbox. These dry leaves can easily catch fire if exposed to fireworks or falling sparks and drifting embers from fireworks. Leaves, dried twigs, and debris also tend to accumulate in the valleys of your roof. Cleaning out your gutters and clearing your roof of any leaves, branches, and debris will go a long way in terms of safety and can possibly prevent falling sparks and drifting embers from fireworks from igniting a house fire.
Cleaning gutters and downspouts is part of routine roof maintenance and have benefits beyond fire prevention. Gutters clogged with leaves and tree debris can cause water to accumulate. Trapped water can infiltrate the roofing materials and cause damage to the edge of the roof’s surface. In time, signs of water damage will be visible in your home’s interior. Keeping gutters and downspouts free of leaves and debris allow the gutters to do their job by allowing water to flow freely away from the roof.
If you’ve already cleaned your roof and gutters as part of your regular roof maintenance, but you live near a lot of trees, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check your roof just before the holiday to make sure that more debris hasn’t recently accumulated.
A roof inspection is actually something you should plan on doing annually, not just after a hailstorm. Scheduling it just before the Fourth of July is an excellent way to remember to get it done! Since you typically cannot see damage to your roof from the ground, an inspection is the only way to really know what’s happening up there.
If you have any holes in your roof, they could allow sparks from the fireworks into your attic, possibly causing a fire. Missing shingles are another danger that can leave your roof more susceptible to fire damage.
There are a lot of things that can damage your roof without your knowledge during the year including hailstorms, tree rub, and animal intrusion among other things. A roof inspection will let you know the condition of your roof before it is potentially exposed to fireworks.
A routine roof inspection can alert you to possible roof damage and save you from unexpected expenses and costly roof replacements. If you experienced hail or extreme weather in the last year, there is the possibility that you have roof damage you aren’t even aware of. Without an inspection there’s no way to know the severity of the damage to your roof. You could have a hole in your roof or exposed decking that can lead to interior leaks and more costly repairs. When hail impacts your roof, the density size, and speed of the hail determine the amount of damage it does.
The only way to know the extent of the damage to your roof is to get a professional roof inspection. The good news is that in Texas you have one year following a storm to file your insurance claim. At Orbit Roofing we are experts in identifying past hail damage and can help you identify any possible issues that may affect the performance of your roof.
Although most of this article is about roof fire prevention tips, fireworks and sparks fall to the ground as well. If you are lighting fireworks on your property, it’s a good idea to douse your lawn with water to avoid any fires from igniting due to dropped sprinklers, firework debris, or sparks.
If you do decide to set a sprinkler or use a water hose to douse your lawn with water prior to your celebration, do so in the evening after the sun has started to set. This way the water won’t evaporate, and your landscaping will enjoy the protection of the water longer.
Another tip from firefighters is to douse tree bark with water. If a spark lands in tree bark, it can smolder for two to four hours before igniting and spreading toward your home. This is called tunneling and it can possibly be prevented by making sure tree bark stays damp during your fireworks celebration.
If you, a friend, or a family member are igniting fireworks on your property, always be aware of how close to your home you are. Light the fireworks a safe distance away from homes, other structures, trees, or flammable materials such as dry grass and piles of wood.
Also, adhere to local alerts about brushfire risks during this dry season and any HOA rules regarding fireworks in your neighborhood. We want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday!
Before you start your own fireworks show on your property be sure that you are prepared in case of an emergency. Having water on hand can help you respond immediately if a fire does occur. Make sure that your garden hose is attached, untangled, and ready to go should you need it. You can also fill some buckets to have on standby in case of an emergency. It’s also a good idea to test your fire extinguisher prior to the Fourth of July and make sure that it’s readily available should you need it.
Sparklers are a favorite of the young and old alike, but they get very, very hot. If they are dropped on the ground, they can ignite dry grass and debris. In our current drought conditions, fires can spread rapidly. Make sure to collect and properly dispose of sparklers after they go out.
After your display, be sure to collect all of your used and smoldering fireworks and soak them in water for at least one hour before disposing of them. Even if it looks like the used fireworks are burned out, they could be harboring tiny sparks that could reignite later. Soaking the used fireworks in water will ensure that any residual heat or sparks cannot ignite a fire.
In summary, we hope that everyone has a safe and happy holiday whether they choose to attend professional fireworks displays or enjoy their own fireworks at home. If you do plan on lighting your own fireworks, please practice fire prevention. At Orbit Roofing, we care about our community and want everyone to have a safe and joyful celebration with their families and friends. Happy Fourth of July!