Fire Management

Preparing Your Home for Fire Season

Across the United States, more and more homes are being built in the wildland-urban interface where homes are directly adjacent to forested or natural areas.  These homes are particularly vulnerable to wildfire because embers can quickly ignite landscape vegetation, or the home itself.  As spring approaches, warmer temperatures will quickly dry both forest and landscape vegetation.  

Homeowners can take action now to reduce their vulnerability by creating a defensible space.  This means creating a buffer zone or fire break around the home that is free of grass, shrubs, trees, and other flammable materials such as wood piles.  Starving an approaching wildfire of fuel will help decrease the fire’s intensity and improve the probability of a home surviving the burn.  

House in the forest with trees and shrubs all around with fire surrounding the house


What is a Defensible Space?

Defensible space is the area around a home where vegetation, woody debris, and other flammable materials have been removed to reduce fire danger.  Defensible space makes the location safer for fire fighters protecting the home.  Defensible space may vary from one area to the next, depending on the local vegetation, weather, and topography.  For example, homes that are built on steep slopes may require a larger clearing since fires travel much faster as they move up hill. 

Defensible space is one of the most cost-effective ways to protect a home from a wildfire and can be created by the property owner. 

Home Ignition Zone

The concept of the home ignition zone was developed in the 1990s when scientists tried to better understand how homes ignite from the effects of radiant heat.  The home itself and the space immediately surrounding it are most vulnerable to embers, and it is important to clear those areas first. Start With The House, then move into the landscaping around the home.  Refer to the Home Ignition Zone checklist to learn more about simple steps you can take to help protect your home.

Flyer showing the 3 different zones with measurements for defensible spaceImage of Firewise Home Ignition Zone Checklist


Suggestions for Creating a Defensible Space

  • Remove dead or dying branches from trees and shrubs around the home.
  • Remove leaves and needles from the roof and gutters.
  • Trim tree branches that are hanging over the roof or chimney.
  • Place wood piles and other combustible materials at least 30 feet from the home.
  • Clear vegetation from around propane tanks.
  • Mow your lawn on a regular basis.
  • Consider planting fire-resistant vegetation around the home.

Defensible Space Videos

National Fire Protection Association/USFS video: If your Home Does Not Ignite, It Can’t Burn

Defensible Space: Protecting Your Home and Property from Wildfire

Resources to assist you in creating a defensible space