Creating Firebreaks*

It’s a frightening reality: In just the last decade alone—and primarily in the arid regions of the Southwest and Western United States—wildfires have wreaked havoc, increasing in both frequency and severity. And while we’re not here to go into the whys and wherefores of climate change, we are here to offer up a few easy tips on what you can do to effectively reduce the chances of a wildfire damaging your home and property.

Create a firebreak. Simple and effective, a firebreak is essentially an open space that lacks sufficient vegetation (fuel) for a fire to take hold. Examples of natural firebreaks are streams and canyons, while most man-made firebreaks include roads, driveways, and trails.

You can create an effective firebreak and reduce the chances of a wildfire reaching your home by doing the following: 

• Keep tall trees at least 30 feet from your home 

• Trim trees six to ten feet up from the ground 

• Remove dead or dying trees from your property 

• Remove branches and pine needles from rooftops and gutters 

• Fill hollows or voids in tree trunks and stumps with concrete 

• Keep firewood stacks, lumber, and other combustibles away from your house 

• Create paths using concrete pavers, stones, or crushed stone 

• Plant moist, low-growing, fire-resistant shrubs and vegetation under large trees 

• Fertilize and irrigate lawns and plantings 

• Keep a good-quality hose neatly coiled and connected to a working hose bib at all times 

• Ensure your property is easily accessed by emergency crews.

You can create firebreaks farther out from your home and outbuildings by cutting back brush and tall grass and keeping it low, creating perimeter trails that can be used for hiking, four-wheeling, or biking, removing deadwood on the ground, and cutting down dead or dying trees that may still be standing.  

But before you go out and begin dropping trees or mowing down that meadow, we recommend finding you out exactly what your state or town recommends in terms of firebreaks. As each region differs in regard to terrain and flora, your best bet is to contact your local fire department for the details on how to create the most effective firebreaks in your particular area. 

*Always comply with all applicable laws and regulations, and consult your local fire department regarding fire safety requirements and best practices.

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