Spring ahead to protect your home from wildfire

Defensible space is important, especially if you live in wildfire country. PHOTO: Jessica Payne
Defensible space is important, especially if you live in wildfire country.
PHOTO: Jessica Payne/DNR

The month of March always seems to bring us interesting weather. But soon you’ll be hearing the sounds of lawn mowers, trimmers, and leaf blowers. Yard work is inevitable and a sure sign that spring has arrived.

With the arrival of spring, wildfire season is just around the corner – April 15, to be exact. Now is the time to consider fire-resistant landscaping techniques that can help to keep your home safe, especially if you live close to the forest.

Fire-resistant landscaping can be both functional and beautiful. Regardless of whether you’re in the design phase or just doing yard maintenance, remember, fire prevention is really a matter of the right plant in the right place. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Use plants with high moisture content (deciduous) nearest the home;
  • Trim tree branches away from the home;
  • Keep vegetation, including the lawn, around the home low and green;
  • Limb trees at least six feet above the ground to reduce the chances that a fire on the ground will spread into tree tops – this is especially important if your property has lots of trees;
  • Keep decorative ground covers, such as tree bark away from direct contact with your home – bark and wood chip ground covers can smolder; and
  • Trim back trees and shrubbery around structures so that fire crews and their vehicles will have safe access in an emergency.

Defensible space
Trees, shrubs, grasses and other vegetation provide fuel for fires. Reducing or even eliminating vegetation close to structures is a way to create defensible space against a wildfire.

If you’re designing or updating your home’s landscaping, think of ways to incorporate firebreaks (things that don’t burn) into your landscape design. A defensible space doesn’t have to be an eyesore. Some examples of firebreaks are: concrete, brick or gravel walkways, concrete flower box borders or planters, and water features, such as a pond. Even the backyard swimming pool can serve as a firebreak.

Get Firewise
In Washington, numerous communities have received national recognition for their fire prevention efforts through the Firewise Communities USA® Program. Many other neighborhoods have completed a wildfire protection plan that can help save lives and property.

In Washington, 85 percent of our wildfires are human-caused. We can all do our part to help prevent the spread of these wildfires. For additional tips on how to reduce the risk of wildfire to your community, home and family, log on to www.firewise.org.

With Washington’s population growing, especially in the forest on the outskirts of our urban areas, it’s important for homeowners to understand how to protect homes and property before a wildfire breaks out. The better prepared that you and your community are for a wildfire, the better chance we all have for preventing a catastrophe.