Wildland Fire Prevention: Wildfire Protection and How it Effects you

With the advent of summer now is a good time to take a look around your yard and make sure you are fire safe.  I have spent many years in the fire service and have some understanding of Wildland fires.

The first thing is to make sure that your yard meets local fire codes.  In California that means you have a defensible space of 100 feet around your home.  A hundred feet sounds like a lot, but consider the number of homes that are destroyed by wild fires in California every year.   Also remember, that this is with fire suppression efforts, including fire trucks and planes.  If this equipment is not available, you have a much bigger problem.

Depending on where you reside some or all of these suggestions will probably apply.  Most rural areas of the United States have at least a moderate potential for wildfires.

Your House

First use ignition resistant construction as much as possible.  This includes a fire resistant roof.  Enclose the undersides of eaves, balconies and above ground decks with fire resistant materials.  Exteriors should be of stucco, block, concrete or other nonflammable materials where possible.

Make sure that you have clear access routes to and from your house. Clear flammable materials at least ten feet from roadways and five from driveways.

If you live on a ridge, hill or edge of a canyon, the greatest fire danger will come from the low laying areas.  Fire and heat always rises.

Your Yard

Remove dead leaves and needles from your roofs, gutters and around your home or out buildings.  Cut back dead branches that overhang your home.

Keep your wood pile at least 30 feet from all structures.  Locate LPG (propane) tanks at least 30 feet from structures. Maintain a good clearance around the tank.  If possible locate your propane tank downhill from your residence.  If the tank leaks propane is heavier than air and flows downhill like water.

A home within one mile of a natural wild area is at risk of flying embers.  Wind-driven embers can start small fires in your yard, if you allow leaves, trash or other debris to accumulate.  Small fires can rapidly turn into big ones.

Defensible Space

In California, this consists of two parts, a 30 foot clear zone and a seventy foot reduced fuel zone.  All flammable vegetation, dead or dying plants should be removed from the clear zone.

In the reduced fuel zone, remove surface litter (leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones etc.) so that it does not exceed a depth of three 3 inches. Remove dead trees, stumps and old logs.  Grasses should not exceed four inches.


Clearance between brush and trees should not be closer than the minimum shown below.

Fire Ladder or vertical clearance


Low branches on trees create ladders for low fires to climb into the tree tops.  Use the chart below to determine the minimum clearance from the ground.

Remember that these recommendations are based on a fire department response.  You may want to exceed these guidelines.  Check with your local fire Department for additional information.

Wildfires will occur every year, lighting alone causes thousands of wildfires.  In the chaos of a TEOTWAWKI situation, fires will be started both accidentally and on purpose.  Wherever you plan to be, in your home or at your bugout location, take the dangers of fire seriously.  For many people this may be a bigger hazard than looters.

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1 thought on “Wildland Fire Prevention: Wildfire Protection and How it Effects you”

  1. Much of Florida – not a place you usually associate with wildfires – is under a Red Flag Warning. Mainly due to the current moderate drought conditions.

    One of the problems here is maintaining the 30′ clearance around the house. Vacant lots are overgrown right up to the boundary line and abandoned homes are overgrown with weeds, untrimmed trees etc. Once a fire starts it is hard to stop – it leaps from dried palm fronds, to weeds, to pines, to overgrown grass. Coupled with winds it is hard to contain the fires and much damage has been done.

    To protect your home and land, you must be proactive in fire protection. Engage your neighbors and, if necessary, the code enforcement department for compliance of abandoned properties.

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