BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — FOX31 sat down with research engineers who recently conducted investigations of the Marshall Fire.

Dr. Faraz Hedayati and Daniel Gorham, both research engineers at Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, are learning from what saved and destroyed homes in Boulder County. The engineers spent days investigating the aftermath of the fire in Louisville, Superior and unincorporated Boulder County.

“We looked at about 25 or 30 structures,” Gorham said. “This post-disaster investigation matches well with previous ones we’ve done and what we do in the lab.”

While they now take their findings and use them to recreate scenarios in a controlled lab, the engineers said they already noticed several big takeaways, starting with what the homes were designed with.

“It is not just the roof, it is not just the siding, it is the building as a system,” Gorham said. “So we think about where the siding meets the ground in the first five feet where we know embers accumulate.”

The two noticed a number of homes damaged in the burn zone had hardboard siding.

“There are alternatives that look exactly the same but, instead of made with wood particles, they are made with fiber cement particles and that makes them non-combustible,” Gorham said. 

Footage shared with FOX31 shows the non-combustible material tested in a lab setting. The home did not spark a fire with embers shooting at the model property. The home also had dual-pane tempered glass windows and within the first five feet around the home instead of wood mulch.

The engineers noticed many homes that survived in the Marshall Fire utilized rock mulch as well.

“When we talk about the first five feet, put your trees, put your shrubs just outside of that,” Gorham said. “If you have a wood fence too, that fence essentially acts as a wick for the fire to spread to the home.”

Gorham suggests, at a minimum, making sure the part of your fence that enters within that five-foot parameter is not wood.