Make your home more fire-resistant with a few tips and ideas.
Getting back to nature, seeking solitude, escaping the rat race — all good reasons why more homeowners are choosing to build homes in woodland areas. The trend is so prevalent nationwide that these areas have a name, the urban-wildland interface.
With the woodland lifestyle comes risk. One of the primary hazards is the danger of wildfire. The persistent drought in many parts of the United States has made wildfire an even larger menace. Bark beetle infestations have added to the supply of dead, dry wood in many forests.
The following precautions are highly recommended. Implementing them is a small price to pay for living your dream. In many urban-wildland interface areas these "recommendations" are laws. Check your local codes for clarification.
Your top priority outdoors is creating a defensible space around the house or other structures. "Defensible space" is the term that defines an area around the house where flammable material has been removed or reduced.
This area serves as a fuel break and buffer zone. The goal is to keep a fire moving slow and low until it can be extinguished. The space serves two purposes in the event of wildfire — to slow the fire down and give firefighters a space to concentrate on saving the house itself.
The minimum defensible space around a home is 30 feet. This area has little or no vegetation. As alternatives, walkways and stone walls can help dress up the landscape.
A second zone extending an additional 75 feet is also recommended. This area has more vegetation, but still follows firewise guidelines. The secondary zone needs to be larger if the home is on top of a slope — up to 100 feet is advisable.
If these defensible space dimensions exceed your property lines, make every effort to get your neighboring property owners involved in making the area firewise.
The key steps to a fire-safe landscape include:
While the area around the home is important, the construction of the home itself also is significant. Local codes are your ultimate guidelines; here are some fundamentals:
In addition to the precautions listed above, there are a few more things that you can do to minimize your wildfire risk and assist firefighters when they arrive.
Fire, like water, will follow the path of least resistance. Fires generally don't allow much time to react, so prevention and preparedness are critical.