Defensible Space Works


Defensible SpaceMaking sure your home is ready for fire season is a year-round effort. Homes need many defenses for wildfire. A coupled strategy of a fire-resistant structure and defensible space is necessary. The key components are: design, materials, and frequent maintenance.

Maintenance is often the most overlooked aspect of creating a fire-resistant structure.

Defensible space is the buffer you create between a building on your property and the fuels that surround it. Fuel can take many forms like grasses, trees, and shrubs.*

FIRE-ADAPTED LANDSCAPING

Avoid planting softwood and highly resinous, flammable plants such as: eucalyptus, tree of heaven, Scotch broom, pine, spruce, cedar, ivy, periwinkle, cyprus, fountain and pampas grass, acacia, arborvitae, greasewood, bamboo, firs, hemlock, manzanita, and yew.

CREATE A PROPERTY CHECKLIST

IMMEDIATE ZONE 0-5 FEET AROUND YOUR HOME

  • Create a no-fuel, or low-fuel, zone 0-5 ft around your home
  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, all debris and needles that could catch embers. Maintain clean gutters.
  • Use hard surfaces, such as concrete or fire-resistant materials.
  • If planting, use widely spaced, non-woody, low herbaceous vegetation away from vents, windows, and interior corners.
  • Remove combustibles. Store firewood and flammable materials at least 30 ft away from your home, garage, or deck. Never store flammable materials under your deck.
  • Shrubs and trees are not recommended in this zone. Trim back overhanging branches 10ft from your roof.

INTERMEDIATE ZONE 5-30 FEET AROUND YOUR HOME

  • Create vegetation “islands”, to break up continuous fuels. Remove ladder fuels.*
  • Get rid of leaf and needle debris from the yard. Keep grass under 8 in.
  • Keep vegetation well irrigated and free from debris.

EXTENDED ZONE 30-100 FEET AROUND YOUR HOME

  • Create and maintain a minimum of 10 ft between the tops of trees. Remove ladder fuels.*
  • Remove dead trees and shrubs.

*Ladder Fuels are vegetation that allow fire to climb from the landscape or forest floor into the tree canopy. Common ladder fuels include tall grasses, shrubs, juvenile trees, and low hanging branches. Eliminate them by increasing horizontal and vertical separation between vegetation. Fire typically burns uphill; slopes require special consideration.

*Reproduced with permission from the National Fire Protection Association, copyright © 2019, NFPA, Quincy, MA.  All rights reserved.  This material is not the complete and official position of the NFPA on the referenced subject, which can be obtained through the NFPA web site at www.nfpa.org.