As more people choose to build homes, operate businesses and recreate in areas where wildlands border more urban areas, the threat to private property from wildland fire increases. Creating "defensible" or "survivable" space around structures can make the difference between returning to an intact home or a smoldering pile of ashes if a wildfire moves through the area.
Neither wildland firefighting agencies nor local fire departments can adequately protect the growing number of structures in interface areas. It is critical that private landowners take steps on their own to protect their property. There are now many resources available to assist property owners, including a number of Web sites (see the links below) with excellent information on fire-resistant building materials, landscaping techniques, evacuation procedures.
Creating Wildfire Defensible Zones
Two factors have emerged as the primary determinants of a home’s ability to survive wildfire. These are the home’s roofing material and the quality of the “defensible space” surrounding it.
Roofing Materials:Use fire-resistive materials (Class C or better rating), not wood or shake shingles, to roof homes in or near forests and grasslands. When your roof needs significant repairs or replacement, do so with a fire-resistant roofing material.
Defensible Space:Defensible space is an area around a structure where fuels and vegetation are treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire towards the structure. It also reduces the chance of a structure fire moving from the building to the surrounding forest. Defensible space provides room for firefighters to do their jobs. Your house is more likely to withstand a wildfire if grasses, brush, trees and other common forest fuels are managed to reduce a fire’s intensity.
- Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Natural Resources Publications. This site contains many useful online fact sheets available in HTML and/or PDF formats, including Creating Wildfire-Defensible Zones.
- Firewise.org - This web site contains educational information for people who live or vacation in fire-prone areas of the United States.