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fire in suburban area

How To Create a Firebreak

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.

... Number of fires larger than 1,000 acres per year on U.S. Forest Service land. Source: www.climatesignals.org.

If you live in a high-risk area, you need to consider 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 human-made firebreaks include roads, driveways, and trails.

... Use a brush mower to reduce wildfire fuel around your house and outbuildings.

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 
  • On flat ground keep a 30-foot perimeter of cut grass and brush. If your house is on a steep slope (20º or more), stretch the perimeter to 100 feet
  • Trim trees six to ten feet up from the ground 
  • Remove dead or dying trees from your property; use a chipper to eliminate brush piles (ideal fuel for fires)
  • 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 water supply at all times 
  • Ensure your property is easily accessed by emergency crews.
... Keeping a clear perimeter, devoid of fuel, around your home and outbuildings can be an effective defense against a spreading wildfire.

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. Recommended tools: either a self-propelled brush mower or a tow-behind brush mower, and a chipper or chipper shredder.

... Cleaning up brush piles with a chipper is a great way to get rid of hazardous fuel that is lying around your property.

But before you go out and begin dropping trees or mowing down that meadow, we recommend finding out exactly what your state or town recommends in terms of firebreaks. Each region differs in regard to terrain and flora, so 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.

Last updated: 7/11/2022


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