Outdoor Safety & Ethics


Are You Firewise?

No matter what precautions are taken and no matter how much work and effort is put into fire prevention and wildland/urban interface fire fighting, fires have a mind of their own. And the best way for us to help you, is if you help us.

A wildfire affected this homeAs more and more homeowners and camp owners move in and around our national forests a new danger to wildfires has developed called Urban Interface Fires. These are wildfires that affect both forests and communities in and around the forests. Because of this, FireWise, an interagency program, was developed to help homeowners and camp owners learn how to keep their homes and camps safer from wildfires.

The program covers important information about clearing trees around your home or camp, building materials for construction, and having an emergency/disaster plan for your home.

There are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself and your home. Most of the ideas from FireWise are simple and easy to do; and could save your home from a fire. For instance-

  • Have a pathway or walkway around your yard that will separate forest vegetation from your yard.
  • Space brush and trees around your yard- this will help prevent fires from spreading from tree to tree to your roof.
  • If you cut a tree down in or around your yard- remove the debris quickly as a precaution, don't have a lot of yard waste that could ignite.
  • Pile your firewood away from your house.
  • Have a 3-foot fire free area around your home- gravel around the foundation or even not having shrubs or plants closer than 3 feet to the house.
  • Make sure that dead plant life is removed from the 3 foot perimeter around your home- the dead and dried will ignite faster than the living plant life.
  • Create your own firebreak- have a permitter of thinned vegetation around your yard to help slow and maybe even stop the spread of a wildfire.
  • Make sure that shrubbery and trees are native and not inclined to burn quickly.

These are just a few of the many suggestions and ideas that FireWise has developed to help protect homes from wildland fires.

Below are some photos of FireWise homes that are urban interface on the Huron-Manistee National Forests. These are homes near you. They aren't homes from California or Colorado or anywhere else out west, they are right here in Michigan.

ariel view of a home that was saved because the property was firewised.







If you look closely at the photo to the left, at first glance it looks like the forest comes right up to the house. But look again. The trees directly around the house are thinned out and there doesn't appear to be any brush or debris around the house. You can see the area around the road is cleared and the yard is big enough to allow fire trucks to turn around. And as you can see in the picture- this house was saved. The fire surrounded it and one of the factors that helped save this home was the use of the FireWise techniques.



example of a firebreak on private property.Another example of FireWise that worked well was a homeowner created firebreak. It has long been a practice of firefighters to create "firebreaks" or areas that are cleared of trees, shrubbery and debris- or to use existing breaks such as roads, that will help keep a fire from spreading.

This is a Forest Service created firebreak. It's only a few feet wide and it stopped this fire from moving forward towards someone's home.

A family decided to create their own firebreak with excellent results-

photograph of property that was not cleared or firewise.


  This is an after shot of the same property as above, after it was cleared and firewised.






Then, not to long after they finished their fuelbreak there was a fire in the area. If you look below you will see the fire went right up to the fuelbreak, but stopped before it got to the home and outbuildings.Same property as the before and after pictures - a few weeks later, after a fire occurred.  The fire stopped at their fuelbreak.












The Hughes Lake fire of 2006 jumped a road.  This is not to say that there aren't times when fires don't have a mind of their own. To the left is a picture of a fire that jumped a road. This does happen sometimes, and all you can do is keep fighting the fire. But remember the picture above, even if the fire surrounds your home, if you have FireWised your home your odds of keeping your home are greatly improved.

The home on the left hand side of this road was saved, even though the fire jumped the road. They have a FireWise landscape.



Example of a building that was not in a firewise area.  The building burned to the ground.And our last photo- this building was not in a FireWise area. The trees and shrubbery went right up to the building and the sand around the building was full of dried, dead debris that caught fire like a torch.

The pile of debris is what is left of the building after the fire.

The Huron-Manistee offers a traveling FireWise exhibit and talk to local communities who wish to learn more about how to keep homes safer from wildfire. For more information on how to have the FireWise exhibit and talk come to your community contact the Huron-Manistee National Forests: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/hmnf/about-forest.

To learn more about the National FireWise program visit their website: firewise.org/. There is also a program called FireWise Communities USA.