Wildfire Prevention Services - Preventing Wildfires at Home
Many readers may recall the devastating California Camp Fire that burned 153,336 acres and lasted 17 days in 2018. A record 18,804 structures were destroyed, and nearly 14,000 were homes. While fires can be ignited for various reasons (powerlines, electrical, lighting, and human-related), there are several things you can do to protect your home from being ravaged by wildfires.
1.) Know your zones. A retired USDA Forest Service fire scientist developed the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) concept. It focuses on three zones surrounding the home: immediate, intermediate, and extended. The immediate zone is 0-5 feet from your home’s structure, and fire resistance strategies should start with the house itself. Keep gutters and areas beneath decks free from debris and dead vegetation. Store outdoor furniture cushions when not in use. Replace damaged window screens and shingles and remove all flammable materials from wall exteriors. Instead, use roofs with tile, slate, asphalt, underlayment, or pressure-treated shakes/shingles. The intermediate zone is 5-30 feet from the furthest exterior point of the home. Keep grass mowed to 4” and include fuel breaks like walkways, paths, and driveways in your landscaping. Finally, the extended zone is 100-200 feet. Keeping the flames lower to the ground is the goal in this zone. Homeowners should remove dead plants, tree material, and vegetation near sheds or similar structures. Homes on steeper slopes need to increase the distance to account for fire pre-heating and increased flame length. Embers can carry for miles, and building up the home’s defenses will improve safety.
2.) Invest in fire-resistant plants. Fire-resistant plants are specific to location and hardiness zones. Various types of plants can be used in landscaping, like groundcovers, herbaceous perennials, vines, deciduous shrubs, broadleaf evergreen shrubs, non-turf grasses, and trees. When deciding which plants to incorporate in landscaping, choose plants with high moisture content, fewer branches and leaves, slow-growing, etc. Rock Soapwort (USDA hardiness zones 2-10) and Creeping Phlox (zones 5-9) provide excellent ground cover and lovely flowers in the spring. Herbaceous perennials will return year after year, saving time and money. Echinacea, also known as Coneflower (zones 3-8) and Bee Balm (zones 4-8), are pollinators and attract hummingbirds, birds, and butterflies. Lastly, oak trees (zones 3-9) are durable, low-maintenance trees that usually survive periodic fires. Ponderosa pine is a western favorite. Of course, there are many more tree species and options. Websites like Southern Living Plants allow site visitors to search for plant varieties based on their zone and other cosmetic preferences.
3.) Safety starts with you. There are additional measures homeowners can take to improve their fire defensiveness. Store gasoline and other flammable materials in appropriate safety containers and keep them away from the home’s base. Stack firewood in the extended zone and soak ashes from fires and grills in a metal bucket for two days. Ensure driveways are wide enough for emergency vehicles regarding road width and vegetation. Use fine mesh to cover vents and prevent embers from blowing into attics and crawlspaces. Lastly, ask power companies to keep powerlines free of branches.
Although fires can start for reasons outside your control, you have the power to beef up your home’s defenses and create a safer environment for you and your family.