Home Fire Protection In The Wildland Urban Interface
(Where combustible homes meet combustible vegetation)

Create A Defensible Space Around Your Home

Severe wildfire hazards exist on most wooded homesites. Many hazards can be reduced to acceptable levels by following these fire safety guidelines.

  • Thin out continuous tree and brush cover within 30 feet of your home. Adequate thinning is reached in the 30 foot “defensible space” when the outer edges of tree crowns are at least 10 to 12 feet apart. If your home is on a slope, enlarge the defensible space, especially on the downhill side. If it is located at the crest of a steep hill, thin fuels at least 100 feet below the crest.
  • Dispose of all slash and debris left from thinning. Common disposal methods are 1) lop & scatter; 2) pile and burn (in accordance with local burn restrictions); and, 3) chipping.
  • Remove dead limbs, leaves, and other ground litter within the defensible space.
  • Stack firewood uphill and at least 15 feet from your home.
  • Maintain an irrigated greenbelt immediately around your home using grass, flower gardens, or ornamental shrubbery. An alternative is rock or other noncombustible material; avoid bark or wood chip mulch in this area.
  • Mow dry grasses and weeds to a height of 2” or less and keep well watered, especially during periods of high fire danger.
  • Prune branches from trees within the defensible space to a height of 10 feet above the ground. Also remove shrubs, small trees, or other potential “ladder” fuels from beneath large trees; left in place, these can carry a ground fire into tree crowns.
  • Trim branches that extend over the eaves of your roof. Remove branches within 15 feet of the chimney.
  • Clear roof and gutters of needles and leaves to eliminate an ignition source for firebrands, especially during the hot, dry weather of the fire season.
  • Reduce density of surrounding woodland areas at least 100 feet out from the homesite (it is preferable to thin your entire lot). Thin trees so crowns do not touch each other. Whenever possible, harvest sawlogs, posts, poles, or firewood.

Homeowner Fire Safety Practices

  • Use noncombustible or fire resistant building materials, especially on the roof.
  • Install chimney screen or spark arrestor.
  • Enclose or screen off porch, foundation, roof and attic openings to keep debris from accumulating underneath or firebrands from entering.
  • Post house or lot numbers so that it is clearly visible.
  • Provide adequate driveway and turnaround space for emergency vehicle, access with 10 feet of clearance on each side of drive.
  • Protect windows and sliding glass doors with nonflammable shutters and provide fire resistant drapes on the interior.
  • Develop an external water supply, such as cisterns; dry hydrants; and, ponds; for firefighting.
  • Store tools such as shovels, axes, rakes or hoes for use in case of fire.
  • Plan and rehearse a home fire escape drill.
  • Know where safety areas are within your subdivision. Meadows, rock outcrops, and wide roads are good examples. Know all emergency escape routes.

Subdivision Activities

  • Form a fire protection or forestry committee to organize and oversee needed projects and activities.
  • Install fuelbreaks (an easily accessible strip of land varying in width, where fuels are modified to discourage the spread of fire) at strategic locations throughout your subdivision.
  • Thin dense stands of trees and/or brush in common ground and greenbelts.
  • Maintain all road and street signs.
  • Install a fire danger sign at the entrance to your subdivision. (For information call the VA Dept of Forestry.
  • Clear at least 3 feet around and above fire hydrants.

Report all fires immediately to your Local Fire Department, the Virginia Department of Forestry, or the County Sheriff's office.

Last modified: Tuesday, 25-Nov-2014 12:16:44 EST