How to Protect Your Home From Wildfires with Defensible Space
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
Wildfires are never out of season. Create a defensible space to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire and to help protect the firefighters defending your home.
What is Defensible Space?
Defensible space refers to that area between a house and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation has been modified to reduce the wildfire threat and to provide an opportunity for structural protection without risking homeowner or firefighter's lives. Sometimes, a defensible space is simply a homeowner’s properly maintained yard.
ZONE 1: 0 - 30 feet from buildings
Trim or prune shrubs/vegetation to a height of 2 feet and provide clear space around each plant of at least 4 feet.
Remove all flammable material from the ground, under decks, and around propane tanks.
Keep roofs and gutters clear of debris.
ZONE 2: 30 - 100 feet from buildings
Remove all vegetation that would allow flames to climb up vegetation or buildings.
Trim limbs a minimum of 6 feet from the ground.
Create islands of shrubs, thinning them enough to walk between them.
On slopes greater than 20% gradient, treatment should be extended an additional 100 feet from structures.
Stack wood piles at least 30 feet from structures.
Never prune near power lines, call your local utility company first.
What is FIREWISE?
Firewise is a mind-set and action of overcoming the challenges necessary for communities in fire prone ecosystems to live with wildfire. It is a multi-agency program that encourages the development of defensible and survivable space and the prevention of disastrous wildfire.
Fuel is required for any fire to burn. In regard to wildland fire, fuels consist of live and dead vegetation, such as trees, shrubs, grasses and their debris. Structures also become a potential source of fuel when they are in the vicinity of a wildfire. The amount of fuel, its moisture content, arrangement and other characteristics influence fire behavior.
Dry, hot and windy weather increases the likelihood of a major wildfire to occur. These conditions make ignition easier, allow fuels to burn more rapidly, and increase fire intensity. High wind speeds, in particular, can transform a small, easily controllable fire into a catastrophic event in a matter of minutes.
Since heat rises, the steepness of slope greatly influences fire behavior and the rate of fire spread. Slopes with south and southwest aspects tend to be drier and more prone to ignition. Steep, narrow drainages and canyons act like chimneys when wildfires occur.
When people choose to build or buy homes in high-hazard fire areas their homes are potential fuel. Untreated wood shake and shingle roofs, narrow roads, limited access, lack of firewise landscaping, inadequate water supplies, and inadequately planned subdivisions increase the risk of wildfire to people and their property.
Wildfires in the Southwest
Much of the Southwest is considered a high-hazard fire environment. Based on recent history and experience, these areas possess all of the ingredients necessary to support large, intense, and uncontrollable wildfires.
Within this hazardous environment are individual houses, subdivisions, and entire communities. Many homeowners, however, are ill-prepared to survive an intense wildfire. It is not a question of "if" a wildfire will occur but when. As such, the odds of losing human life and property are growing
Our ability to live more safely in this fire environment depends on pre-fire proactivity. Actions taken before a wildfire occurs improve the survivability of people and homes.
Be proactive and firewise when it comes to your home and business!