When a wildfire occurs, the demand on fire department service is extreme. Protecting life is their first priority. Protecting property and resources secondary. With both wildland vegetation and a large number of structures threatened, the fire department resources become overwhelmed. Often, they may have to decide between attacking the fire or choosing which structure can be saved.
You can help improve the fire-fighting effort by making your property a place to effectively battle a blaze, and make it more likely your structure can be saved.
-Learn safe camp or open pit fire practices. Avoid open burning completely during dry season.
-Build fires away from nearby trees or bushes. Always have a way to extinguish the fire quickly and completely. Never leave a fire--even a cigarette--burning unattended.
-Perform weed abatement on a regular schedule for structures built near wooded areas.
-Use fire-resistant materials when building, renovating, or retrofitting structures.
-Create a safety zone to separate the home from combustible plants and vegetation. Stone walls can act as heat shields and deflect flames. Swimming pools and patios can be a safety zone.
-Check for fire hazards around home.
-Install electrical lines underground, if possible.
-Keep all tree and shrub limbs trimmed so they don't come in contact with the wires. Prune all branches around the residence to a height of 8 to 10 feet.
-Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying wood and moss.
-Remove all dead limbs, needles, and debris from rain gutters.
-Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep them away from the house.
-Keep chimney clean.
-Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas.
-Make evacuation plans. Plan several routes in case the fire blocks escape route.
-Have disaster supplies on hand.
Fire-Resistant Building Materials.
Avoid using wooden shakes and shingles for a roof. Use tile, stucco, metal siding, brick, concrete block, rock, or other fire-resistant materials. Use only thick, tempered safety glass in large windows and sliding glass doors.
Fire safe Landscaping Checklist.
When designing and installing a fire safe landscape, consider the following:
- Local area fire history.
- Site location and overall terrain.
- Prevailing winds and seasonal weather.
- Property contours and boundaries.
- Native vegetation.
Plant characteristics and placement (duffage, water and salt retention ability, aromatic oils, fuel load per area, and size).
When creating a Fire safe landscape, remember that the primary goal is fuel reduction. To this end, initiate the zone concept. Zone 1 is closest to the structure; Zones 2-4 move progressively further away.
Zone 1:, This well-irrigated area encircles the structure for at least 30' on all sides, providing space for fire suppression equipment in the event of an emergency. Plantings should be limited to carefully spaced low flammability species.
Zone 2:, Low flammability plant materials should be used here. Plants should be low-growing, and the irrigation system should extend into this section.
Zone 3:, Place low-growing plants and well-spaced trees in this area, remembering to keep the volume of vegetation (fuel) low.
Zone 4:, This furthest zone from the structure is a natural area. Selectively prune and thin all plants and remove highly flammable vegetation.
Also remember to:.
Be sure to leave a minimum of 30 feet around the house to accommodate fire equipment, if necessary.
Widely space and carefully situate the trees you plant.
Take out the "ladder fuels" - vegetation that serves as a link between grass and tree tops. This arrangement can carry fire to a structure or from a structure to vegetation.
Give yourself added protection with "fuel breaks" like driveways, gravel walkways, and lawns.
- Keep trees and shrubs properly pruned. Prune all trees so the lowest limbs are 6' to 10' from the ground.
- Remove leaf clutter and dead and overhanging branches.
- Mow the lawn regularly.
- Dispose of cuttings and debris promptly, according to local regulations.
- Store firewood away from the house.
- Be sure the irrigation system is well maintained.
- Use care when refueling garden equipment and maintain it regularly.
- Store and use flammable liquids properly.
- Dispose of smoking materials carefully.
- Become familiar with local regulations regarding vegetation clearances, disposal of debris, and fire safety requirements for equipment.
- Follow manufacturers' instructions when using fertilizers and pesticides.
When constructing, renovating, or adding to a home, consider the following:
- Slope of terrain; be sure to build on the most level portion of the land, since fire spreads more rapidly on even minor slopes.
- Set your single-story structure at least 30 feet back from any ridge or cliff; increase distance if your home will be higher than one story.
- In designing and building your structure, remember that the primary goals are fuel and exposure reduction.
Design and build a structure with fire safety in mind.
- Use construction materials that are fire-resistant or non-combustible whenever possible. For roof construction, consider using materials such as Class-A asphalt shingles, slate or clay tile, metal, cement and concrete products, or terra-cotta tiles.
- Constructing a fire-resistant sub-roof can add protection as well.
- On exterior wall facing, fire resistive materials such as stucco or masonry are much better choices than vinyl which can soften and melt.
- Window materials and size are important. Smaller panes hold up better in their frames than larger ones. Double pane glass and tempered glass are more reliable and effective heat barriers than single pane glass. Plastic skylights can melt.
- Install non-flammable shutters on windows and skylights. To prevent sparks from entering your home through vents, cover exterior attic and underfloor vents with wire screening no larger than 1/8 of an inch mesh. Make sure undereve and soffit vents are as close as possible to the roof line. Box in eaves, but be sure to provide adequate ventilation to prevent condensation.
- Include a driveway that is wide enough to provide easy access for fire engines (12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet and a slope that is less than 5 percent). The driveway and access roads should be well-maintained, clearly marked, and include ample turnaround space near the house. Also provide easy access to fire service water supplies, whenever possible.
- Provide at least two ground level doors for easy and safe exit and at least two means of escape (i.e., doors or windows) in each room so that everyone has a way out.
Keep gutters, eaves, and roofs clear of leaves and other debris.
Make periodic inspections of your home, looking for deterioration such as breaks and spaces between roof tiles, warping wood, or cracks and crevices in the structure.
Periodically inspect your property, clearing dead wood and dense vegetation at distance of at least 30 feet from your house. Move firewood away from the house or attachments like fences or decks.
Any structures attached to the house, such as decks, porches, fences, and outbuildings should be considered part of the house. These structures can act as fuel bridges, particularly if constructed from flammable materials.
Therefore, consider the following:
If you wish to attach an all-wood fence to your house, use masonry or metal as a protective barriers between the fence and house.
Use metal when constructing a trellis and cover it with high-moisture, low flammability vegetation.
Prevent combustible materials and debris from accumulating beneath patio decks or elevated porches. Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire screen no bigger than 1/8 inch.
Clear all flammable vegetation within a minimum 130-feet radius of your home. Sloped areas should be cleared further.
Remove seedlings and scrub growth at the base of tree trunks.
Keep your grass short and discourage underbrush from growing along the edges of your safety zone. Clean up all leaves, fallen needles and other dead vegetation.
Provide a clear space around your chimney of at least 10 feet by removing all tree limbs and any dead branches that hang over your roof.
For large lots, vegetation more than 100 free from the home should be thinned and dead vegetation removed.
Clean your gutters, eaves and roofs – especially during hot, dry weather. Old leaves and pine needles cause fires to spread.
Stack firewood away from your home.
Maintain a clear space of 10 feet around liquid propane gas tanks. Install protection posts around liquid propane tanks.