There is perhaps no emergency more frightening than a fire. When flames ignite, smoke can quickly pour through rooms, threatening lives and property almost immediately. In areas where wildfires occur with regularity, residents may be fortunate enough to receive advance warning. Even with news of a fire spreading, homeowners often struggle with how to take action before the flames reach their property.
California wildfire season is upon us, so it’s important to take a look at home defense strategies and how you can protect your home and loved ones. Understanding how wildfire defensible zones work can provide you with the knowledge necessary to prevent serious property damage. Take action today to ensure you’ll be prepared should a wildfire shift in your direction.
What is Defensible Space?
Wildfires are a natural part of forest ecosystems. Because forests along the west coast are made up of highly flammable species of trees, they pose a lingering threat during the warm, dry months of the year. Since such forests surround so many neighborhoods, it’s up to homeowners to be proactive in their plan to manage wildfires. Defensible space must be created in order to protect property and lives.
The term ‘wildfire defensible space’ refers to the buffer created by reducing or removing shrubs, trees, or wildland areas around a home. In the face of a roaring wildfire, defensible space is often the only viable strategy for fending off fierce flames. In addition to protecting your home, the creation of defensible spaces reduces the chances of a structural fire intensifying the wildfire and spreading to other homes.
Creating Defensible Space
To create a defensible space around your home, you’ll want to break up your property into three zones. Zone one is the home ignition zone. Extending about 30 feet from your house, this zone should be free of all flammable vegetation. Irrigated gardens and fire-resistant vegetation are acceptable, but anyone hoping to keep trees inside of zone one for privacy or shade should consult with a wildfire mitigation specialist.
Zone two extends 30 to 100 feet beyond your home. This zone aims to break up fuel continuity in the hopes of stopping the spread of a wildfire. To do this, create space between trees and shrubs and reduce the opportunity for fire to travel between branches. Experts recommend removing any branches that are within 8 feet of the ground or one-third of the height of the tree. The crown of any tree should be placed at least ten feet from other trees.
Zone three consists of any space beyond 100 feet from your home. Create fuel breaks similar to the strategies used in zone two, but also be sure to pick up dead or diseased vegetation and branches that may have fallen to the ground. While mowing the grass beyond 100 feet isn’t strictly required, it is a good idea to manicure this portion of your property, especially during wildfire season.
Even the best-laid plans can go awry. The defensible space zones are simply recommendations. Anyone concerned that they do not go far enough to protect their property should take it upon themselves to adjust the guidelines for their use. For example, trees like the Douglas Fir and the Engelmann Spruce are known to be uprooted in high winds, adding another layer of complication to the defensible space strategy. Consult with a professional forester to ensure your zones are well-designed.
When possible, prepare a source of water on-site to use should a wildfire shift in your direction. Particularly in rural areas, it can be difficult for fire departments to reach an endangered home in time to prevent a tragedy. Even when they arrive in time, finding a water hookup for their equipment can be a challenge. Be proactive by having a primary and secondary water source to pull from in case of an emergency.
Consider creating a disaster supply kit. It will come in handy should you be asked to evacuate your home. Having a well-stocked supply kit will prove invaluable should you and your loved ones need to make a quick exit from your property.
Partnership in the Face of Adversity
During wildfire season, it’s important to brush up on wildfire preparation tips and educate yourself on what to do in an emergency. FEMA offers a thorough guide that should be reviewed by your whole family. Wildfires are unpredictable, so finding reliable partners in the face of disaster is crucial. Make sure you understand the types of eligible homeowners insurance coverage you need, should a wildfire break out on your property. If you need guidelines or a quote, give Wawanesa a call at 800-640-2920 or visit our website.