Monday, June 27, 2011

How To Protect Your Home From Wildfires


As Northern New Mexico communities experience the fallout from Arizona and New Mexico fires, people are increasingly thinking about how to reduce danger to their homes and workplaces from wildfires. One way to achieve this is by creating defensible space, a practice that becomes especially salient when employees are sheltering in place.

Tips for creating defensible space
  • Clear all flammable vegetation from within 10 feet of propane tanks
  • Use hard surfaces (concrete, stone, asphalt, brick, etc.) in your landscaping
  • Trim tree branches within 10 feet of a chimney or stovepipe
  • Remove all needles and leaves from beneath decks and within two feet of any structure; in open areas, restrict needles and leaves to a depth of two inches (to prevent soil erosion)
  • Trim grass to four inches in height (where soil erosion is an issue, 18 inches are allowed)
  • Eliminate tall shrubs, small trees, low-hanging branches (know as “ladder fuels”) that allow flames to climb upward and other debris beneath trees Space trees 20 to 30 feet apart
  • Grass and other round fuels should not exceed four inches in height
Maintain a 100-foot defensible space around structures:
  • 10-foot ignition zone
  • 30-foot clean zone (or to property line)
  • 70-foot reduced fuel zone (or to property line)
Tips for creating a defensible space:
  • Clear All flammable vegetation from within 10 feet of propane tanks
  • Use hard surfaces (concrete, stone, asphalt, brick, etc.) in your landscaping
  • Trim tree branches within 10 feet of a chimney or stovepipe
  • Remove all needles and leaves from beneath decks and within two feet of any structure; in open areas, restrict needles and leaves to a depth of 2 inches to prevent erosion
  • Trim grass to 4 inches in height except where soil erosion is an issue, where 18 inches is allowed
  • Eliminate ladder fuels that allow flames to climb upward (such as tall shrubs, small trees, low-hanging branches) in addition to other debris beneath trees
  • Space trees 20 to 30 feet apart, officials recommend
Creating defensible space helps firefighters protect your home from wildfires

Credit: San Bernardino County, Single house [199 KB]

Fire safety is a community effort: When homes are close together, creating defensible space means neighbor helping neighbor.
Credit: San Bernardino County, Multiple houses [181 KB]

Grasses:
Ideally, grass should not exceed four inches in height. In situations where these fuels are isolated from other fuels or where necessary to stabilize soil, grasses and similar vegetation may reach a height of 18 inches.

Horizontal Clearance for Shrubs and Trees:

Clearance between shrubs should be 4 to 40 feet depending on the slope of the land and size and type of vegetation.

Vertical Clearance for Shrubs and Trees:

Low branches create 'ladders' from the ground fuels to the trees. To determine the proper vertical clearance between shrubs and the lowest branches of trees, use this formula:
3x height of shrub = minimum vertical clearance

Credit: San Bernardino County

For example, if a shrub is 4 feet tall, the minimum vertical clearance between the top of the shrub and lowest tree branch is 12 feet.


Note: A grouping of vegetation may be treated as a single plant if the foliage of the grouping does not exceed 10 feet in width. For example, three individual manzanita plants growing in a cluster with a total foliage width of 8 feet can be 'grouped' and considered as one plant.

Protecting Your Home From Fire

Download a Defensible Space illustration:
Take Steps to Protect your Home from Fire [147 KB]
Continuous Tree Canopy

Prune lower branches of trees to a height of six to 15 feet from the top of the vegetation below (or the lower 1/3 of branches for small trees). Properties with greater fire potential, such as steeper slopes, or more severe fire danger will require pruning heights in the upper end of this range.


Remove all ground fuels greater than four inches in height. Single specimens of trees or other vegetation may be kept if they are well-spaced, well-pruned and create an overall condition that avoids the spread of fire to other vegetation or to structures.

Any questions regarding requirements for a specific property should be addressed to a local fire official.


Sheltering in place
Sometimes, sheltering in place is safer than evacuating. No matter where employees are—at their home or workplace—the basic steps of shelter-in-place generally remain the same.
In addition to creating a defensible space around their location, employees should:

  • Determine in which room to shelter. The room should be above ground level and have few or no windows
  • Keep the room stocked with food, water, and medical/first aid supplies
  • Shut and lock all windows (tighter seal) and close exterior doors
  • Turn off air conditioners, heaters, and fans
  • Close vents to ventilation systems
  • Make a list of the people sheltering and share it with someone outside the home or workplace
  • Turn on a radio or TV and listen for further instructions
  • Take cell phones to use during the emergency
Contacts and sources:
More information is here.

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