Precast Concrete’s Amazing Ability to Withstand Wildfires

Brown precast concrete railing

Concrete is made up of limestone, clay, gypsum, and aggregate. All of these are non-combustible materials, making concrete fire-resistant. We often see the chimney – made from similar materials like concrete – as the last part standing after a house fire.

Concrete’s slow rate of heat transfer – how quickly heat can travel through a material – makes concrete an ideal material to protect structures and people from fire.

Concrete walls can handle up to four hours of extreme fire before it starts to break down. What this means is if a fire does happen, you will have a lot less cleanup and a lot less to replace. Most of the time, the concrete can even be reused after it survives a fire.

Because concrete is so chemically inert, it doesn’t emit toxic smoke or dangerous byproducts when burned. Those secondary environmental concerns are nonexistent when using concrete.

How does Precast Concrete Compare?

As stated, concrete walls can withstand extreme fires for up to four hours. When comparing this to wood walls – which will burn down in one hour – we clearly can see the advantages of using concrete over wood. Many builders are starting to frame houses in concrete for this very reason.

Plastic fencing, unfortunately, performs very poorly in fires. Even exposure to high heat from the sun can cause the plastic to warp and sag. It has a high rate of heat transfer, and plastic fences will provide no protection from the heat, and it absorbs heat like crazy, meaning it will get hot quickly and stay hot for a long time.

When wood or plastic is burned, it emits toxic fumes that can cause health issues. The smoke from wood burning is often what kills people in fires – they simply can’t breathe. If the wood has been chemically treated, you add those chemicals to the smoke being inhaled. Plastic emits hormone-disrupting, cancer-causing, and nervous system-damaging chemicals when burned. Concrete emits very, very little fumes or chemicals when burned – clearly the better choice for our health.

What Can You do to Prevent the Spread of Fires?

In the past few years, we have seen major wildfires destroy areas of the country, like California. The death toll of the Camp Fire in Northern California in 2018 reached 48 people, which is just one of the many fires California has experienced lately, albeit the deadliest in state history. Some of these fires – especially when combined with high winds – are so devastating and burn so hot that there is little that can be done to stop them.

But, sometimes, fires can be reduced and even stopped using concrete. Fire needs fuel to burn – without fuel, the fire dies. Neighborhoods using concrete fencing reduces the available fuel – helping to slow the spread of fires. These concrete walls can also provide areas of refuge for people and wildlife.

Concrete separation fences help stop fires from jumping from building to building. Your concrete fence could prevent your neighbor’s house from burning, and vice versa.

Image of one of our customer’s Woodcrete Fencing still standing after the 2019 California wildfires.

When Fire Happens, American Precast Concrete Still Stands

Precast concrete doesn’t just prevent or slow the spreading of fires; it also withstands fires. Over the past couple of years, California has experienced devastating wildfires that have destroyed property. Upon recent inspection of areas that had been burned, fences and walls that had been built by American Precast Concrete were found to be still standing, perfectly intact.

This goes to show the strength and durability of precast concrete and its ability to withstand the impact of a California wildfire. If you are thinking about building a wall or fence for your home, be sure to choose American Precast Concrete to complete your project so you can be sure it lasts, even in the worst-case scenario. Contact American Precast Concrete to get started today!