Preparing Your Home for Fire Season

Firewise drawingWe’re well into June and the temperatures rise; soon it will really start to feel like summer.  As we wonder agog at this month’s explosion of color and shake our fists at lawns that refuse to stay mown, we should also plan for the hotter, drier months ahead.  A little tidying up before fire season hits can help protect your home, and your neighborhood.  (And haven’t you been meaning to get at those old overgrown shrubs?)  Time to take a stroll around your place and see what needs to be done:

Near the house, create a 30-foot “defensible space”:

  • Clean pine needles and leaves off the roof and out of the gutters.
  • Pick up dead needles and branches, particularly needles that hang in shrubbery near the house.
  • Prune tree limbs so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
  • Remove large groupings of highly flammable plants like ornamental junipers that contain resins, oils, or waxes and that collect dead needles or leaves within the plant.
  • Replace flammable mulch like pine straw with shredded wood chips, chunky pine bark, lava rock or coarse gravel in areas within 5 feet the home.
  • Relocate firewood and propane gas tanks at least 50 feet away from the home.
  • Keep 100 feet of hose readily available at a faucet away from the home.
  • Maintain your lawn at 2 inches. Cut down wild grasses.

Beyond the house, keep it lean and green:

  • In wooded areas, remove “ladder fuels” — vines and shrubs that can carry a ground fire into treetops.
  • Clear away dry brush and debris, forgotten gardening experiments, that old wooden boat you’ve been meaning to do something with…
  • Thin trees so that there is plenty of room for canopy growth. A woods with growing space for trees will be healthier, more drought tolerant, and less susceptible to fire.

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For more information, visit our sources: Firewise USA; the Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources; and Firewise: It’s Not Just An Eastside Issue by Kevin W. Zobrist, WSU Regional Extension Specialist, Forest Stewardship.


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