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Use Defensible Space to Protect Your Property from Wildfires

May 21, 2013

Wildfire season has come early to Southern California. This May’s “Springs Fire” surprised many communities along the Pacific Coast Highway with an early and unseasonable threat. Meanwhile, Colorado prepares next month for the anniversary of the Waldo Canyon Fire, the most expensive wildfire in the state’s history and the estimated cause of more than $352 million worth of insurance claims.

The risk of property loss due to wildfires is likely to rise as more and more people build homes and communities close to wooded areas. Rural forests and mountainsides offer a connection with nature and a serenity that can’t be found in the city. However, woodland sites come with a yearly set of conditions that make wildfires a real risk.

Annual “dry seasons” and other factors like the buildup of undergrowth all make wildfires a somewhat predictable danger.

The good news is that anything predictable is also preventable. That’s why we want to talk this week about building a zone of “defensible space” around your home or business and offer suggestions about how to reduce your property’s potential exposure to the radiant heat and flames generated by a wildfire.

The idea with a defensible space is to create a 30 to 100 foot safety zone around your home or any other real property. This space is meant to serve as buffer between your buildings and any surrounding fire. Once you’ve planned out the perimeter, go through and remove any flammable materials or other hazards that could help the fire spread too close to your property.

Here are a few steps to take and things to look out for when building a defensible perimeter, courtesy of FEMA’s Wildfire Preparedness Website:

  Clear items that will burn from around the house.
•   Rake up any leaves, dead limbs, twigs, and vegetation.
•   Thin out a 15 ft space between tree crowns and remove limbs within 15 ft of the ground.
•   Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind.
•   Remove dead branches that extend over the roof of structures.
•   Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.

While this may sound like a lot of work, building a defensible space around your home or business might make the difference between saving and losing your property in the event of a fire. As an added bonus, a defensibly landscaped property might also benefit from lower insurance premiums since it is less risky to insure.

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From → Seasonal

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