One of the most important things you need to do is to create a firebreak or buffer on your property. As noted previously, it should form a ring of 30 to 100 feet of low-fuel to no-fuel landscape. Now, a true firebreak is stripped earth at least three feet wide with all plants and roots removed, but these are usually something you put in as a fire approaches as an extreme move. Your buffer zone is something you can do now and maintain in all seasons as a first step in your fire defenses.
Creating a buffer zone that meets the requirements of your area and matches the known wildfire risks where you live can save your property and even your life. Approach the issue logically, but when it doubt, toss visual beauty out the window in favor of practicality and safety.
The following checklist is taken from national fire safety guidelines, and will help you double check yourself as you lower the fire risk profile of your home:
- Remove all rubbish, dead leaves, and other forms of built-up vegetation from under your home, shed, and other structures.
- Inside the designated area, make sure all trees are free of dead limbs.
- If your landscape features dead perennials, annuals, or any flammable vegetation, remove it without mercy.
- Thin your tree tops. Make sure the crowns do not touch and there are no limbs on the first 15’ up from the ground level so that each tree is less likely to catch fire or pass fire to its neighbor.
- Cut back any tree limbs that extend over the roofs of any of your buildings or other structures.
- Make sure no branches overhang your chimney.
- If you have creeping vines on your home, remove them.
- Remove any flammable fuels from inside your firebreak. Make sure if you have outside barbecues and/or propane tanks that you clear at least a 10’ area around them.
- The same applies to gasoline and any fuel-soaked materials. Store them only in approved fireproof containers away from your home.
- If you have an outside grill, cover it with a non-flammable mesh screen.
- Never leave newspapers or other highly flammable recyclables laying around— dispose of them regularly, especially in peak fire season for your area.
- If you use firewood, do not stack it up beside your home or out buildings. Make sure it sits in a cleared area approximately 20’ away from the nearest structure.
When you are working on your fire free zone, be sure you include any outbuildings, barns, or sheds you don’t want to see go up in smoke.