The odds are not good. Recent history shows it has slightly better that a 50% chance of survival. First, it’s important to understand that all codes establish a minimum standard of care for homes and buildings. Codes are the least you can do under law. Codes are not a best practice and codes often lag the market and needs in the market because they take years to write (3-5) and then longer to become adopted and enforce (1-2 more years). In the Camp Fire of 2018, new homes built to meet the nation’s best wildfire code, only 51% survived. Meanwhile, only 18% of those homes built to earlier codes survived. You need to ask yourself if a 51% survival rate for the largest financial investment many make in their life-time — their home, is acceptable. Then you need to look and the incremental added costs to exceed the code minimum and adopt off-the-shelf best practices of using non-combustible sidings, trims and exterior insulation, as well as Class A roof coverings. Financing in a 30-year mortgage, possibly combined with a property insurance rate discount for following best practices, and also exceeding CA’s energy code by using exterior insulation to wrap your walls, it’s feasible that the added costs are negligible or cash positive on a monthly payment perspective. Utilities often provide incentives to exceed the energy code — reducing your monthly utility bills. Further, federal tax credits of up to $2000 have been available highly energy efficient homes. In the end, a new home that exceeds the energy code, while using non-combustible sidings, trims and exterior insulation board to compliment R21-23 insulation in 2×6 walls, can reduce your monthly utility bills such that this pays for above code minimum best practices for fire hardening. It’s feasible that your total monthly expenditures of utility costs & reduced insurance costs can pay for and offset any added increased in your mortgage payment for exceeding the code minimums for energy and wildfire.
If I build to my new home to meet the CA Wildfire Code (Chapter 7A) will it be safe for my family and will it withstand a wildfire?