by Michael Buck
Fiber Cement Siding and Fire Protection
When Darren and Simone V. purchased their home five years ago, the non-combustible Hardie® siding protecting the exterior was a selling point for them. Little did they know that one day they would credit the siding with saving their lives.
Fast forward to an early spring night in 2021. Simone was sound asleep when she was woken by popping sounds coming from a studio building next door. Her bedroom window was intensely bright, and she got up to investigate. What she saw put her into escape mode.
“I just saw the wall of fire … and it’s just a couple of feet from our window,” Simone said, who immediately roused her husband. “At that point, our fire alarms weren’t going off … and the building was completely engulfed.”
They scooped up their 2.5-year-old daughter and fled the home. Once outside and safe, they were able to survey the scene. They saw fire from the adjacent studio leaping two floors or more into the air, and flames licking the side of their house.
Resisting the Flames
“We could see the fire literally hitting (our home) and the heat was so intense, and it was not doing anything to our walls. It was like a giant shield,” Simone said of their Hardie® siding. “We have double windowpanes, and they were shattering and melting.”
Despite the total destruction of the studio, Darren’s and Simone’s home was largely intact, which can be seen in the photo above. They credit their HardiePlank® lap siding with saving their lives and protecting their home.
“The only reason why we are alive today and that our own home wasn’t engulfed was thanks to your product,” Simone wrote in a note to James Hardie. “I still have a home because of your product, and we are all still alive.”
Simone said the firefighters at the scene were impressed by the generally good condition of their house given that it was so close to such an intense blaze. She describes the home as livable, but there are repairs and investigation that needs to happen.
“We’ve actually received a couple of messages from friends that are currently renovating or currently building their own home, and they said that because of our pictures they’ve decided to switch. So, they're not going to be going with just the vinyl siding,” Simone said.
When they bought the home, Darren said he was attracted to the low-maintenance aspects of Hardie® fiber cement siding and that it resists the impact of hail, along with the fire-resistant qualities. But now, to see his siding stand up to fire like it did, he fully realizes the value of the product.
“I still have a house,” Darren said. “We could save a couple grand to go with vinyl, but I would have lost everything.”
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