Wildfire Safety: Using Defensible Space to Protect Your Home

By using defensible space, you can build a beautiful, Firewise landscape that will contain wildfire instead of fuel it.

  • The Fire-Free Five saved this Texas home.
    Photo courtesy NFPA Firewise Communities Program
  • In “Surviving Wildfire,” author Linda Masterson provides information on protecting your home from wildfire.
    Cover courtesy Pixyjack Press
  • A wide, mowed perimeter helped keep the wildfire away from this home.
    Photo by LaVonne Ewing
  • When attempting to protect your home from wildfire, divide your landscape into three separate zones. Zone One (the first 30 feet) applies to all homes in the WUI. Zone Two (30 to 100 feet) applies to homes in moderate- to high-hazard areas. Zone Three (100 to 200 feet) is for high hazard areas.
    Photo courtesy NFPA Firewise Communities Program

Do you want your rural home to be better protected from wildfires? Linda Masterson knows how to protect your home. In Surviving Wildfire (PixyJack Press, 2013), Masterson provides tips to homeowners who wish to keep their homes from being destroyed in the same way that her Colorado home was in 2011. The following excerpt from Chapter 4, “Defensible Space You Can Live With,” guides you through three landscaping zones to assess when attempting to protect your home.

Buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Surviving Wildfire.

Defensible Space You Can Live With

Defensible space is just what it sounds like. It’s the area surrounding your home where you’ve taken steps to reduce both natural and manmade wildfire hazards so a fire has less fuel to burn. That reduces both the speed and intensity of an approaching wildfire. Defensible space also gives firefighters room to work safely if they are able to try to defend your home. And good defensible space combined with Firewise construction and maintenance helps your home defend itself.

Firewise  Landscaping

If you design your landscape with wildfire safety in mind, you can create a beautiful landscape that can help contain fire instead of fuel it. It’s all a matter of choosing the right materials, plants, shrubs and trees, then spacing them properly and taking good care of them. You can use driveways, walkways, patios and water features to add interest and reduce fire danger. See your state forest or county website for recommendations on fire-resistant plants that do well in your area. There are also links to local plant lists provided by the Cooperative Extension Services of many states listed on the Firewise website.

It’s important to maintain your landscape to keep it in fire-resistant condition. That means pruning, weeding, mowing, trimming dead branches and removing dead and dried plants. If water—or the lack thereof—is a perennial issue, consider using non-woody native plants that require little irrigation, and incorporating features like walkways, patios, stone walls and boulderscapes that need little care and actually improve your defensibility.

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