Brush Fire Basics: 12 Terms All Homeowners Should Know
Unfortunately, brush fires are a fact of life in the US, destroying an average of 6.4 million acres each year. In really bad years the devastation skyrockets, like in 2015 when more than 10.1 million acres burned, breaking the previous record set in 2006.
If you live in a region where wildfires are common, you’ll want to take steps to reduce the threat brush and wild fires pose to your family and home. To help you accomplish this, let’s take a look at some of the terms you’re likely to encounter:
- Defensible zone. It describes areas surrounding your home that utilize firewise landscaping to establish an island of defensible space.
- Fire-free zone. It defines an area five feet deep and immediately adjacent to your home, which should be free of flammable materials and planted with fire-resistant or high-moisture plants.
- Fire mitigation zone. Mitigation and defensible zones are often used interchangeably. Local jurisdictions may establish formal fire mitigation zone regulations, which may require you to install fire-resistant hardscaping and plants and clear flammable trees and plants from specified areas.
- Firescape. This term describes landscape designs that feature a mix of fire-resistant hardscaping and plants installed in strategic locations around your property.
- Fuel break. It refers to anything that provides little or no fuel for a spreading fire, such as driveways, walkways, open lawns, and fire-resistant plants.
- Fuel reduction. This is the central premise of wildfire reduction. The concept is simple: Eliminate flammable materials, and it reduces the speed at which wildfires spread and the damage they cause.
- Home ignition zone. Developed by the USDA Forest Service, it defines how close a fire must come (between 100 and 200 feet) before your home ignites due to radiant heat.
- Pyrophytes. This term describes plants that readily ignite and burn. Common characteristics include needle-like leaves that contain oil, waxy leaves and stems, gummy or resinous sap, or twiggy growth habits, all of which make them more flammable.
- Zone 1. This area is adjacent to your home, encircles the structure, and extends a minimum of 30 feet from it and everything attached to it (decks, boardwalks, fencing, pergolas, etc.).
- Zone 2. Extending 30 to 60 feet from your home, this zone features low-growing plants that are well-irrigated and comparatively fire resistant.
- Zone 3. Extending 60 to 100 feet from your home, this zone functions as a fuel reduction space. Understory trees and shrubs should be cleared, and plants should be fire resistant.
- Zone 4. Extending 100 feet or more from your home, it serves as the outer ring of your defensible space. This more naturalized area should be cleared of deadwood, small trees, woody shrubs and similar threats.