Slowing the course of fire in a wood-shake roof

Q. My house has a wood-shake roof in a high-risk brush fire area. What is the name of a product to apply to those shakes to fireproof them? Walter C. Atcheson La Verne, Calif.

A. Marshall Ritchie, marketing manager of Red Cedar Shingle & Handsplit Shake Bureau of Bellevue, Wash., says, ''The only fire retardant treatment which has Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approval involves complete chemical impregnation by pressure treatment while the shakes or shingles are in their original bundles. This treatment gives the shakes a class ''C'' UL rating. A class ''B'' rating may be achieved by using a class ''C'' treated shake over solid sheathing and a metal foil underlayment.''

Note this expert's use of ''fire retardant,'' not ''fireproof.''

As pressure treatment is not possible with existing roofs, UL does not recognize any exterior chemical roof treatment. Nevertheless, there are a number of companies treating existing wood roofs with chemicals said to be fire retardant.

As to their effectiveness and durability, confer with Brian Buchanan, wood technologist, Texas Forest Products Laboratory, PO Box 310, Lufkin, Texas 75901, phone (713) 632-6666.

On a national level the overwhelming percentage of fires, about 95 percent, originate inside structures, not outside.

Some property owners next to the Los Angeles foothills have installed fire plugs at their swimming pools. This consists of a gasoline-engine-powered water pump which, separate from the main power supply, pumps a heavy head of water from the pool through perforated pipes located on the roof.

Your local fire chief should have some pertinent advice on particulars of fire-prevention.

Needless to say, the distance between your house and the brushline is relevant to the safety of a dwelling.

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