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Published | 04-08-2020

Fire Protection for West Coast Roofs
When it comes to fire frequency and intensity, the tale is in the trends. Fires are becoming more frequent, larger and more destructive. The perfect storm of dead trees, unharvested timber, and thick underbrush along with the average temperature inching up a few degrees and drying out the forest floor faster than the decreased precipitation can replenish it, and we’re left with a tinderbox ecosystem.  The inevitable lightning bolt of a thunderstorm or the careless act of a human is all that’s needed to create devastation.

Commercial buildings sit in the crosshairs of fire danger, particularly on the west coast of the United States. As the most vulnerable area in the building, roofs require careful consideration for mitigating the impact of fire. Adding to the danger matrix is the plethora of commercial buildings in the west with combustible decking such as wood, OSB or plywood. Fire needs fuel to continue. As it consumes forest and brush, fire brands – burning pieces of wood – and embers are produced. These offspring of fires catch a ride on the wind and can generally travel a quarter mile to one mile from their source. The Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon jumped the Columbia River to ignite fires in Washington State – a two mile distance. “The biggest danger isn’t necessarily the fire pushing through—it’s the ash fall,” said Lt. Damon Simmons, Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office spokesperson.[1]

When embers land on a roof with a combustible deck and insufficient thermal protection in the roof assembly to protect it[2], ignition can occur. The fuel the fire needs for sustenance is your building. This increases the importance of the materials used for the thermal protection of combustible decking. The case for a gypsum roof board is notably strong.

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“Glass mat gypsum roof boards are inert making them non-combustible,” said Jason Peace, Vice President Marketing & Product Management at Georgia-Pacific. “The core of our DensDeck® Prime Roof Board is comprised of calcium sulfate and chemically combined, crystalized water which releases as water vapor. One 5/8” 4’x8’ sheet contains 2 gallons of crystal water – providing optimal thermal protection and fire resistance.”

Used in the cover board position, just beneath the roof membrane, helps keep fire brands and embers from igniting the roof and consequently, the building below. Used in the thermal position, attached to the roof deck, DensDeck Prime roof boards act as a barrier to internal fire sources, protecting the assembly materials above.

Fire season isn’t something anyone in the west looks forward to–but you can prepare your buildings to defend against it. For new construction or re-roof projects, protect your building by including a gypsum roof board such as DensDeck Prime panels in the cover board and thermal position. If you do, you’ll sleep a little easier when the temperature rises and the hot winds blow.

[1] https://www.hoodrivernews.com/archive/eagle-creek-fire-expands-to-acres/article_cfc0191f-e9c9-5a63-bd42-97aabf097ae1.html

[2] https://www.buildings.com/article-details/articleid/19332/title/understanding-roofing-fire-ratings

Have A Roofing Expert Contact Me

Want to learn more about cover boards? Have a new roof construction project? Need assistance on a roof remodel?

HAVE A ROOFING EXPERT CONTACT ME

Want to learn more about cover boards? Have a new roof construction project? Need assistance on a roof remodel?