Stewardship in forestry: Time to create defensible space

May is Oregon Wildfire Awareness Month and each week will be dedicated to a different topic. This week is focused on creating defensible space around your home.

“Creating defensible space around your home is the single most important thing you can do to help save your home from wildfire,” says Interim Oregon State Fire Marshal Jim Walker. “The more you can do to make your home defensible, the easier it is for firefighters to protect it.”

When it comes to preventing wildfires, there’s a lot at stake: lives, personal property, and the many values provided by Oregon’s forests.

“Simple prevention strategies will make the strongest impact in keeping your home, family and community safe,” said Kristin Babbs, president of the Keep Oregon Green Association.

Wildfires that occur in the wildland-urban interface often are started by human activity and then spread to the forest. Once underway a fire follows the fuel, whether it is trees or houses. Creating defensible space around a house is a proven way to make it less vulnerable to wildfire.

Babbs pointed rural residents to the national Firewise Communities Program for tips. “Defensible space” simply means to maintain the landscape around a home to reduce fire danger, and provide safe access to firefighters so they can protect it. In creating defensible space, Firewise advises to start with the house and work your way out.

Check the roof and rain gutters

Regularly clearing leaves or needles off the roof and out of the rain gutters is crucial to maintain fire resistance.

Remove fuel sources close to the house

The perimeter of the home and attachments out to about 5 feet are vulnerable if organic mulch, juniper bushes or other flammable plants are located in that area.

Maintain landscaping in the middle zone

Plants in the zone about 30-100 feet from the house should be low-growing and well irrigated. Spacing and pruning trees inhibits a wildfire from climbing into the crowns and carrying flames from tree to tree, and eventually to the house. A fuel break can stop the advance of a fire by starving it of flammable vegetation.

Firefighter access

When they respond to a call, firefighters must consider their personal safety. Will the driveway into your home allow them to engage the fire safely? If not, prune trees along the driveway and trim back shrubs so that a fire engine can enter and exit without running a gauntlet of flame.

More tips on how to create defensible space around your home can be found at firewise.org. You can also contact your local ODF office at 541-296-4626.

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