IBHS Urges Residents in Wildfire-Prone Areas to Create Defensible Space During Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 7 -13)

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Preparing your home or business to better defend itself during a wildfire is critical to its survival

While homeowners can’t control the often fast-changing path of a wildfire, creating defensible space can go a long way toward saving a home.

As the summer heat gives way to the cooler temperatures of autumn, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) encourages residents in wildfire-prone areas to prepare their property for the fall wildfire season during Fire Prevention Week (October 7 – 13).

“The autumn months are an ideal time to tackle outdoor projects before colder winter temperatures set in,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. “One important project should be creating defensible space around your home to help reduce the risk of wildfire-related property damage.” Rochman added that “this is a relatively simple, effective way to reduce a home’s wildfire risk for little or no cost. While homeowners can’t control the often fast-changing path of a wildfire, creating defensible space can go a long way toward saving a home.”

IBHS’ free Wildfire Home Assessment & Checklist found on DisasterSafety.org, is an easy-to-use guide homeowners can use to improve their property’s wildfire ‘self defense system,’ said Rochman. “Preparing your home or business to better defend itself during a wildfire is critical to its survival,” she said.

IBHS offers region-specific wildfire retrofit guides for home and business owners which address unique building styles and characteristics found in the respective region. The guides also include information about how to create a wildfire-resistant landscape. IBHS also offers wildfire preparedness brochures focusing on commercial, residential, and farm and ranch properties.

To create defensible space, IBHS recommends the following:

ZONE 1: The area adjacent to your home (0-5 feet)
The objective of this zone is to minimize the chance that embers landing near the building will ignite materials that could result in flames making direct contact with your home.

  •     Select products such as noncombustible mulches, including rock, gravel, and noncombustible hardscape features such as brick and concrete walkways and surfacing that will reduce wildfire exposure.
  •     Do not store firewood and other combustible materials (e.g., lumber) in this zone.
  •     Choose low-growing, irrigated herbaceous plant materials.

ZONE 2: The area from 5 to 30 feet of your home or to the property line
Use this area as a buffer zone to reduce the intensity of a wildfire. The vegetation in this area should be arranged in islands, or groupings, and separated such that a fire in any one island will not result in the fire being able to burn directly to the building. In order to minimize the amount of radiant heat that could impact the building, outbuildings (e.g., tool sheds, play structures) should not be located in this zone.

  •     This area requires the most thinning and horizontal separation between trees and other vegetation groupings, and removal of items that could result in a very intense fire close to your home. The objective of thinning and separation is to reduce the chance that ignited vegetation will provide a direct path for fire to burn to the home.
  •     Boats, trailers, other structures made of combustible materials (e.g., wood or plastic) and anything else containing combustible materials should not be located or stored in this zone..

Steps to improve defensible space in Zones 1 and 2

  •     Prune branches that hang over your home so that they are at least 10 feet away.
  •     Remember the importance of the 0 to 5 feet noncombustible zone - remove flammable vegetation close to, adjacent to or under vents, soffits or windows. If ignited, vegetation in the area within 5 feet of the building will expose combustible siding and windows to flames.
  •     Limb up trees and remove dead material from all vegetation on your property.
  •     Remove vegetative debris (e.g., pine needles) from your gutters, roof, and areas near your home on a regular basis.

ZONE 3: The area beyond 30 feet from your home
This area is often referred to as the “reduced fuel zone.” The objective of this zone is to slow down and reduce the energy of the wildfire. This area extends from 30 to 100 feet from your home or to the property line. Homes located at or near the top of a steep slope, particularly if the home has an inadequate set back, may benefit from a larger zone.
Steps to improve your defensible space in Zone 3

  •     Thin out trees to reduce the chances that fire can spread from one tree crown to the next.

Remove dead plant materials and tree branches.

  •     Ladder fuels are those that will allow fire to climb up the bark and into the upper portion of the tree. Prune trees to eliminate ladder fuels.

Visit DisasterSafety.org for more information about how to make your buildings more resistant to a variety of disasters, large and small. Follow IBHS on Twitter at @DisasterSafety and on Facebook.

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About IBHS
IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific and educational organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks to residential and commercial property by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices.

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