Fire Safety Friday: Tree Spacing and Placement

Since our post last week, wildfire risk has increased across the state, with unusually early fires in the Green Valley area east of Auburn and also fires in other areas around western Washington. Residents near the Green Valley fire were even asked to evacuate on Monday evening. These are indicators that the fire season has already started, and officials from many partners are stressing the importance of mindful fire habits and getting our homes and neighborhoods prepared. Some helpful publications from WADNR include Living with Fire and Defend Your Home (in English and Spanish).

In last week’s post we shared how you can reduce wildfire risk within the first 5 feet of your home. This week, we’ll highlight tree spacing, placement, and what can be done in the next 5 to 30 feet (Intermediate Zone) around your home to improve its chances of surviving a wildfire.

Home Ignition Zones

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

Trees within the Immediate (0-5 feet) and Intermediate (5-30 feet) zones can increase the chances of a wildfire damaging a home. Trees planted within 30 feet increase wildfire risk by creating a continuous path for fire to spread closer to a home during a wildfire event.

Proper tree placement and spacing not only increases the aesthetic value of a property, but decreases the chances of a wildfire damaging the home. When planting trees around homes, remember to think about “Defensible Space” and consider the placement and spacing of trees and how these actions can reduce the risk of wildfire damage. This illustration shows some recommendations for spacing trees in all three zones.

Tree placement and spacing increases the aesthetic value of a property while decreasing the chances of a wildfire damaging the home.

Here are a few more actions to improve the Intermediate zone. Maintaining the this zone makes it “Lean, Clean and Green.”

  • Lean – Ensure there are small amounts of flammable vegetation by planting fire-resistant plants as other vegetation dies.
  • Clean – Remove any accumulation of dead vegetation or other flammable debris.
  • Green – Water plants and grass to ensure they are healthy and green. In addition, mow lawns 4 inches high or shorter.

An Intermediate zone that is maintained “Lean, Clean and Green.” reduces the risk of a wildfire damaging a home. A combination of wise tree placement, tree spacing, and maintaining the Intermediate Zone improves the chances of a home surviving a wildfire.

Stay tuned next week for recommendations on how to maintain a healthy and wildfire-resilient Extended zone.

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

Register for Managing Wildfire Risk to Your Western Washington Home

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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