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Worried about Wildfires? Create Fire Mitigation Zones

Worried about Wildfires? Create Fire Mitigation Zones

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If you live in one of the more than 72,000 communities at risk of wildfires, you need to understand the threat and take actionable steps to protect your family, home and neighborhood.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to create fire mitigation zones. Start at your house and work your way out to develop a series of concentric rings that create an island of defensible space around your home. Here’s what to do:

1. Establish a fire-free zone extending 5 feet from your home and all attached elements (garage, deck, patio, porch, etc.):

Remove dead vegetation.
Replace junipers and woody shrubs with fire-resistant ones.
Replace organic mulch with gravel or stone.
Clear dead vegetation from underneath decks.
Trim tree limbs so they don’t overhang the roof and are 10 feet away from the walls.
Remove firewood and propane tanks, and store them elsewhere.
Clean gutters and corners where leaves, pine needles or other flammables accumulate.

2. Create a defensible space (zone 1) extending 30 feet from your home.

Install an open lawn with widely spaced planting beds containing fire resistant plants.
Remove lower tree branches to produce 6 to 10 feet of clearance between the ground and lowest branch.
Remove or trim conifers to create 30 feet of space between the crowns.
Keep grass mowed, and plants and trees pruned.
Water regularly, or implement hydrozones and use xeriscape plants.

3. Create a fuel reduction space (zone 2) extending 30 to 60 feet from your home.

Thin trees and undergrowth to reduce vegetation.
Plant fire resistant plants.
Mow periodically, and keep plants and trees trimmed.
Water often enough to ensure plants stay healthy.

4. Create a transition area (zone 3) extending 60 to 100 feet from your home.

Remove all dead or dying vegetation.
Retain a mix of deciduous and conifer trees.
Leave 20 feet of open space between individual trees or 30 feet between two- and three-tree clusters.
Remove lower tree branches to produce 6 to 10 feet of clearance between the ground and lowest branch.
Install open grassy areas and fuel breaks such as gravel, stone or paved driveways and walkways.

 5. Create a defense perimeter (zone 4) extending 100 to 200 feet from your home.

Remove all deadwood and dead or dying vegetation.
Remove small trees growing near larger trees.
Have taller trees trimmed to establish open space between the canopies.       

Some regions use a three-zone approach, but the basic strategies are similar. Once you’ve established mitigation zones, maintain them. Keep gutters clear, plants and trees trimmed, and undergrowth cleared to reduce fuel sources. Over time, you can add other firewise enhancements. Consider removing wood decks and installing paved patios, or replace wood fences with metal or masonry walls that act as fuel breaks should a wildfire head your way.

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