A lot of info there to do with the style that the US houses are built as compared to Aussie homes.
These suggestions will suit people living on larger lands and acreage. Going to be a bit of ranting and sidetracking here, but just going off my personal experiences of being a rural fire fighter for 5yrs
For Aussie conditions, there are a variety of ways that can be implemented in bushy areas that are prone to bushfire. The biggest is having at least 50m of cleared ground around the house. If you live in an area that allows your to keep the grass green, keep it short and tidy in that 50m clearance area. If not, maybe look at other options for fireproof ground cover such as a rock garden.
Contact your local firewarden about coming up with a fire rating for your property with things such as fitting 2" cam locks to your water tanks that the fire brigade can hook onto if a fire comes through the area.
Also know your property. Back when I was a rural fire fighter a few years ago, we were doing a normal backburn on a local property in prep for fire season and had spent a month planning it out and cutting fire breaks in to set it all up. Everything was going as planned, when the evening came and the supporting brigades went home and took their trucks and tankers with them just leaving our brigade with it's 1 truck and 2 utes. As we were sitting around the truck eating our pizza dinner a huge shower of embers started falling down around us and the house. 1 of the guys took off to the source to find it was a large pile of seasoned felled trees had gone up, while he ran a line down to the pile the rest of us setup secondary pumps into the pool to be able to keep the roof of the house watered down so it didn't catch, I then took a second line down to the fire front and spent the next 2hrs with my buddy taking turns at the wood pile to knock it down. It was an intense fire and you couldn't stand more then a few minutes at it even with the hose spraying it down even with the face shields and PPE we wore.
The property owner later told us that he didn't even know this wood pile was there. So if your on property, take the time to go for a walk or bike ride or drive around and do a general survey of your property to find things like these wood piles. As you can read above they can turn a well planned textbook backburn into a very serious situation.
Things like trees that are close to the house, tell council you want to fell them, especially gum trees which are notorious for dropping widow makers. Just after Cyclone Debbie hit up here, I was out doing clean up at the local school with my chainsaw and the gums there had dropped heaps of branches, 1 I was chopping up ended up being speared 3foot into the ground ! If the council refuses to give you permission to fell the tree, take it up with your local fire brigade again, they can help push the council and if still not them make a complaint to the ombudsman for your council and you'll get your permission
Small things such as fitting inline valves to your downpipes, so when a fire is in the area, you close them off and fill the gutters with water.
Keep your property access clear of large trees and such that may fall and block the road/escape path.
Keep a sort of map of your property with water sources such as dams and tanks that you can give the first responding crew when fires are in the area to make their life easier when formulating an action plan.
Help the firefighters anyway you can without getting in their way, cold water, lots of it, fire fighting is very hot and hard work and you can't drink enough water when fighting fires, same with food, don't be afraid to make some Nutella sandwiches and stuff for them, sometimes you go hard all day and don't get a break to eat something.
Get involved. Rural fire brigades are staffed with volunteers, and can always do more. You don't have to be a fire fighter, you can work the radios, or help with fundraising and events and stuff like that, lots of stuff to help with.
By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail. -- Ben Franklin
Smart luck is when you work your arse off, so when the opportunity presents itself, you don't have to pray for dumb luck.
From one ex-Firey to another cheers Joey...its really good to hear ideas and observations firsthand...most of your stuff Id already marked as 'to do' but some really good ideas I hadnt thought of...Ta, again...
We aren't in a fire prone area, but I just have a certain wariness about fires given weather extremes. I have the clearance around the house and being made of straw bale and render the exterior is basically fire proof - there are some exposed wood ends - but manageable. So not overly worried about the walls. Im worried about the roof and embers. Our roof is colour steel - and the manufacture claims it is fire proof - if embers settle on it is it likely to resist allowing them to penetrate the roof cavity? As I say - materials info says yes - but interested if anyone has any practical experience with it.
In Australia we don't tar our rooves like in the US so there generally isn't anything really flammable on the outside of our roof that can catch. The things that do catch though is people who don't clean their gutters out and have all sorts of decaying leaf matter in the gutters that can catch.
This goes back to one of the things I mentioned above about being able to block the gutters up and fill them with water should the embers start flying, as some of them can stay alright long enough to get carried several Km by the wind causing advanced spot fires ages away from the main fire.
I've several experience's that were unpleasant with fires so I set up a fairly robust set of controls around my house
1st Basic environmental controls so all the trees were removed or thinned near the home and any reaming trees have a water drippers system on them to keep them green and full of water so they are not just a bunch of oil ready to burn if also planted a type of pig weed to form a natural fire break to slow any ground fire if also planted it around places that embers may get blown into or under that plant is an amazing ember catcher and is you wet it down beforehand its even better and if it des burn it has an endothermic reaction rather then an exothermic reaction so there are plenty of open ground that's kept watered and green and the trees have been thinned to slow or prevent crown fire combined with plants that are natural fire retardants to slow or capture embers and wind blown debris
2nd equipment on hand in a circle around the perimeter of the house yard is a buried 2 inch polly pipe system about 6o cm underground with steel risers that come up with taps on them and minsup fittings to attach either one of the many fire hoses or sprinklers to wet the ground down this pipe system is supplied by a 25000L water tank that as a 5 hp Honda engine coupled to an Onga single stage blasé mater pump
There is a second 15000L water tank that covers water supply around the work shop it has a small electric pump that supplies a large roof mounted sprinkler and a couple of hoses for wetting down the ground
lastly there is one more 15000l tank that is hooked up to the house water supply it has a secondary pump that feeds the under balcony misters and roof sprinklers
Inside the house there are 2 9kg fire extinguishers 1 in the hall cupboard and 1 in my bedroom 3 3kg fire extinguishers 1 mounted near the fire place 1 in the kitchen and 1 in the bathroom 2 fire blankets 1 in the kitchen and 1 in the bathroom
fire escape kit the kit contains the following 4x wool blankets 4 disposable smoke masks 2 adult sized large cotton overalls 2 adult sized small and modified cotton overalls for the kids 1x cut down sledge hammer 4 pairs of gloves 4 pairs of goggles 1 thick piece of denim to cover broken frame if egress through a window busted by the hammer is needed
I also have a range of PPE gear for fighting the fire including nomex undershirts and pants plus double lined overalls boiler boots a 3m full face mask with smoke filters a gold lens face shield for when mask isn't needed
3rd Plans and procedures and practice I have made solid plans with my neighbours and developed check lists procedures for the house in response to a fire threat of different types Most importantly I've made sure my insurance is up to date
Once a month is check and test all the equipment to make sure its in working condition and serviceable in in place like it should be this includes test running all the pumps and water system and the back up generator making sure the fire blankets are in place and the fire extinguishers are in range and ready for use
I've also taken the time to make sure my wife knows how to use it and start it including the how to properly use a fire extinguishers to extinguish a small kitchen fire or waste fire
As a family we have talked about what to do in the event of a fire ranging from a pot on the stove to a raging bushfire nd drawn up action plans on what to do and who does what
lastly even with all that in place if its a catastrophic rated day or there is a direct threat in the area that may reach us that day we leave and don't go back till its over the gear is only for when there s not hope of escape
I was once called to a home to quote on replacing some bushfire-damaged items in Stoneville (basically hills covered with a lot of trees & scrub - bushfires are common there) in late summer. Had it not been for a firefighting helicopter dumping water in the back yard at the last moment the house would've been lost.
I arrived to see piles of firewood stacked against the house wall, and piles of tree cuttings (including some rather large branches with dry leaves still attached) within a couple of metres of the house. I also saw gutter drains in the driveway completely packed with dry leaves. Dry, dead plant matter was visible in the roof gutters. The whole "garden" was covered in dried leaves and full of dead, dry plants. The driveway was also covered in dry matter, and this had blown into the carport.
The woman who lived there was complaining that the firies should do more to prevent bushfires.
If I was a firefighter I doubt I'd even try to help people with this attitude.