Can homes be saved? 

Documentary offers ways to harden communities


October 6, 2022 | View PDF

Trip Jennings, director of "Elemental."

RAINBOW: The audience at last Friday's screen of the documentary "Elemental" was the largest outside of Portland, according to its director. People saw archival footage from other parts of the U.S. that suffered destruction similar to the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire. There were aerial views of burned lands around Vida. Other footage illustrated ways a home could be hardened to limit fire damage.

The segment from a fire lab included tests where entire houses were subjected to a simulated wildfire, complete with high-velocity winds and flying embers.

Speaking after the showing the film's director, Trip Jennings, had some sobering words. "As you saw in the film defensible spaces work - sometimes. It does not work when winds are 40, 50, or 60 miles per hour. That was clear in Paradise - very few houses survived from a defensible space."

What works, he said, is taking a "house out" approach. With that in mind, a homeowner can start by modifying or retrofitting their home by enclosing eaves, covering vents, and installing triple pane windows.

"One of the things the research is most clear on what's most important is adding 5 feet around your house," Jennings said. Within that zone he recommended creating a barrier zone of non-combustible materials like river rock or cement walkways.

"I'm grateful to people who are thinking about fire in the off-season," he added. "They are thinking before a fire and well after a fire. I think this is our way out of this."


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