Create a Firebreak to Protect Your Homestead

Learn how to create a firebreak to protect your homestead with these strategies to bring the fire down to a ground fire when it gets close to your buildings.

| June/July 2003

Learn how to create a firebreak to help protect your property.

Create a Firebreak to Protect Your Homestead

  • First, create a "defensible" space to make sure that an approaching fire, burning through the crowns of trees, will be knocked down to a ground fire close to your buildings.
  • On level or slightly sloping ground, maintain the first 30 feet from buildings in low grass or plants that stay green all year. Outside this area, keep trees thinned and prune lower branches for another hundred feet.
  • For slopes exceeding 20 percent, the close-in defensible space should be extended to a 100-foot radius.
  • In windy and highly flammable brush habitats, like coastal California chaparral, the nonflammable space should extend to 100 feet on level ground, and to 200 feet when the slope is more than 20 percent.
  • Although the "defensible space" keeps the direct fire from reaching your buildings, any fire with a bit of wind throws embers into the air. These small airborne fires still can endanger a house. Structures with these features are especially vulnerable.
  • Wooden roofs: Virtually guaranteed to turn the house into a Roman candle.
  • Cardboard boxes or firewood stacked next to a house, a porch with a couch, overstuffed chair or other obviously flammable ember-catchers.
  • Dry leaves or needles in rain gutters or collected on the uphill side of the chimney.
  • Undersides of decks or wooden walkways usually are very dry and sometimes have dead grass residues underneath. Consider screening them to prevent the entry of burning embers.

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