Chino Hills homeowner recognized for making his home as fire-resistant as possible

Rob McMillan Image
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
SoCal homeowner makes his home as fire-resistant as possible
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While there's no such thing as a fire-proof home, one home located in Chino Hills might be as close to one as you can possibly get.

CHINO HILLS, Calif. (KABC) -- While there's no such thing as a fire-proof home, one home located in Chino Hills might be as close to one as you can possibly get.

Over the past year and a half, homeowner O.P. Almaraz made many alterations to his home on Rock Ridge Way. Consequently, it's the first home to get the Wildfire Prepared Home Plus designation from the non-profit Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.

"I live right along the hillside, and anyone who lives along that area is eventually going to be evacuated," said Almaraz. "So, I decided you know what, I'm going to protect my home as best I possibly could."

Almaraz experienced an evacuation firsthand in October 2020, when the Blue Ridge Fire ignited the hills behind his property.

"When I started to see the hillside glowing, I decided it was time for us to get out," he said.

While his home did survive, Almaraz said he didn't want to take any chances in the future. His home was insured by the California FAIR Plan, so he knew that if his home was damaged there might not be much in the way of coverage.

"For me, I want to protect what we have here, versus having to rebuild it all over again."

Most of the improvements he made were do-it-yourself projects. They included covering his gutters to prevent the buildup of leaves, protecting his attic vents with mesh and moving all of his bushes at least five feet away from the outside walls of his home.

"The wall, the shutters, the garage doors, all of the features on the house are non-combustible," said Anne Cope of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

"It's not actually the flames that are marching toward the house, it's the embers," Cope said. "They swirl right next to the house and ignite landscaping, or penetrate through the attic vents and they light structure from the inside out.

"Most Californians already have a class A roof. You can install mesh over your attic vents to keep the embers out."

Rich Snyder, a retired fire marshal who now works with Allied Disaster Defense, said building codes have gone a long way in protecting future homes. But the owners of homes that are decades old should consider making some of the improvements that Almaraz made to his home.

"Wildfires are going to happen, it's part of nature, so the goal is when the fire does hit, is my house still going to be there?" said Snyder.

"This is a perfect example of a home that's built to survive the fire."