Wildfire Preparedness: Creating Defensible Space

5240886_mIf you have ever seen aerial footage after a wildfire showing a lone home standing in the midst of a completely burned area, that was made possible by defensible space. Defensible space can save your home in a wildfire. It is a buffer zone between your house and the flames and intense heat of the fire. It can direct the fire around your home rather than to your home. Defensible space reduces hazards for firefighters while they defend your home. In some states and jurisdictions, defensible space is required by law.

Zone 1 – 30 Feet

Defensible space is divided into zones. Zone 1 extends 30 feet from your house and other structures.

  • Clean pine needles, leaves and other debris from roof, gutters, decks and porches.
  • Move woodpiles out of zone 1. Keep flammable vegetation at least 10 feet away from woodpiles.
  • Keep grass and weeds mowed to less than six inches tall.
  • Remove all dead, dry grass, weeds, leaves, pine needles, and other dead or unhealthy plants and vegetation.
  • Trim trees to keep branches at least 10 feet from other trees.
  • Remove all dead tree limbs and branches.
  • Remove branches that hang over your home.
  • Prune trees up a least six to ten feet from the ground or one-third of the tree’s height, whichever is less.
  • Remove flammable vegetation from the first 15 feet surrounding your home if possible. If not, keep bushes and shrubs pruned, healthy, and free of dry, dead areas.
  • Remove bushes and small trees from beneath tall trees, so the fire cannot climb up the smaller vegetation into the tree.
  • Remove vegetation and any flammable items from beneath decks.
  • Remove propane tanks to Zone 2, and keep vegetation and other flammable items at least 10 feet from the tank.

Zone 2 – 30 to 100 Feet

  • Keep grass and weeds no more than six inches high.
  • Remove pine needles, twigs, bark, branches, and other debris if possible. Do not let it accumulate to more than three inches deep.
  • Thin out vegetation.
  • Keep trees at least 10 feet apart, and 10 feet away from single shrubs.
  • Clumps of shrubs and bushes should be no more than twice as big around as they are tall, and the space between the clump and other vegetation should be at least 2½ times the height.
  • Woodpiles belong in Zone 2. Keep vegetation and flammable items at least 10 feet away. Woodpiles should be on the same level or uphill from your home.
  • Propane tanks belong in Zone 2. Keep vegetation and flammable items at least 10 feet away. Propane tanks should be on the same level as your home, not uphill or downhill.

Check Your Local Laws

These are general guidelines for creating defensible space. Some states and jurisdictions have specific requirements which may differ from what is listed here.

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