Fire Safety Friday: Wildfire Preparedness Starts Now

Spring has sprung in earnest and we hope you are planning on getting outside and doing some work on improving your home’s wildfire resiliency.

Last week we covered how to reduce wildfire risk to your home. This week we’ll share what you can do within the first 5 feet (Immediate Zone) to improve the chances of your home surviving a wildfire event.

Home Ignition Zones

Defensible space is broken down into three different Home Ignition ZonesImmediate, Intermediate and Extended.

First, improve wildfire resiliency by replacing bark with a hardscaping material such as rock, concrete, pavers, etc. Doing this simple step creates a no-fuel zone. Bark is flammable, and during a wildfire event, windblown embers that land on the bark in the Immediate Zone could start a fire right up against your home.

If you choose to have vegetation within this zone, having fire-resistant plants that are adequately spaced, or planted away from flammable structures, decreases the potential risk to your home during a wildfire event.

Here are two resources that cover selecting fire-resistant vegetation that may be able to replace non-fire-resistant vegetation on your property, which increases your home’s overall wildfire resiliency.

Ladder fuels are plants, woody debris, or structures that could allow a fire to spread from the surface of the ground to the canopy of trees. They increase the chance of damage to the home in the event of a wildfire. Ladder fuels pose a risk across all three zones, but are especially risky in the Immediate because a fire that has ladder fuel to climb here greatly increases the risk that the home will be damaged due to ladder fuels generating heat close to the home.

Reducing or eliminating ladder fuels increases the horizontal and vertical spacing between surface fuels and taller fuels like tree canopies. Pruning and removing vegetation is the best way to reduce the risk. We may need to increase space vegetation horizontally as well as vertically to help reduce ladder fuels.

Dense and dead vegetation under trees creates ladder fuels in the immediate zone poses a high risk and could increase the chances of home damage in the event of a fire.

Follow these steps to reduce ladder fuels:

  1. If possible, choose to plant fire-resistant vegetation around your home and property.
  2. Clean dead plant debris (fine fuels) from under other vegetation and around the base of your home.
  3. Increase spacing of shrubs and flowers to ensure they are not touching.
  4. Prune tree branches up to a minimum of 6 feet above surface fuels but not more than 10 feet to remove ladder fuels. Don’t prune small trees more than one third of their total height.

Doing these steps increases the wildfire resiliency of your home and property.

Stay tuned next week for recommendations on tree placement, tree spacing and what we can do to maintain a healthy and wildfire resilient Intermediate Zone.

If you are interested in more information or remote technical assistance, reach out to matthew.axe@kingcd.org or call 425-773-5060.

Matt Axe, Program Coordinator, Wildfire and Forest Resiliency

Thanks to our partners Washington State Department of Natural Resources, King County Emergency Management, Public Health — Seattle & King County – King County Environmental Health Services Division and more.

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