With the recent high temperatures, low humidity and lack of precipitation, we are moving into the time of year when wildfires are a serious threat. Fire ignitions are considerably more difficult to contain when these conditions are present. If there is a Red Flag Warning, avoid outdoor activities that can cause a spark near dry vegetation, such as yard work, target shooting, or campfires.

So, what can you do as a homeowner to help protect your family and home against wildfires? According to the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s “Living With Fire” program, there are many things homeowners can do before, during and after a fire to protect themselves and their property. 

One of the most important steps homeowners can take to help prevent wildfire damage to their property is to create a defensible space around their homes. The term “defensible space” refers to the area between a house and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation has been managed to reduce the wildfire threat and allow firefighters to safely defend the house. In the event that firefighters are not available, defensible space also improves the likelihood of a home surviving without assistance.

The size of the defensible space is usually expressed as a distance extending outward from the house in all directions. The recommended distance is not the same for every home. It varies depending on the dominant vegetation surrounding the home and steepness of slope. Use the Recommended Defensible Space Distance are 30 feet if you home is located on flat to gently sloping ground with the predominant vegetation being grasses around your property.  If you live on moderately to very steep terrain and the vegetation is primarily shrubs and woodland the defensible space would increase to 200 feet. 

Homeowners should remove dead vegetation within the recommended Defensible Space Zone. This would include: dead and dying trees, dead native and ornamental shrubs, dead branches, dead leaves, needles, and twigs that are still attached to plants, draped on live plants, or lying on the ground within 30 feet of the house, dried grass, weeds, flowers and dried cheatgrass.

You should create a separation between trees and shrubs within the Defensible Space Zone. Native trees and shrubs, such as pinyon, juniper, and sagebrush should not occur in a dense stand. Dense stands of trees and shrubs pose a significant wildfire threat. Thin dense tree and shrub stands to create more space between them.

Create a separation between tree branches and lower growing plants: If trees are present within the Defensible Space Zone, there should be a separation between the lower growing vegetation and the lowest tree branches. Vegetation that can carry a fire burning in low growing plants to taller plants is called “ladder fuel.” The recommended separation for ladder fuels is three times the height of the lower vegetation layer. Prune the lower tree branches, shorten the height of shrubs, or remove lower plants. Do not, however, remove more than one-third of the total tree branches. When there is no understory vegetation present, remove lower tree branches to a height of at least two feet above ground.

During a fire, this will help prevent burning needles and twigs that are lying on the ground from igniting the tree.

Create a Lean, Clean, and Green Area extending at least 30 feet from the house: There are two goals for the Lean, Clean, and Green Area. The first goal is to eliminate easily ignitable fuels, or “kindling,” near the house.

The second goal is to keep fire intensity low if it does ignite near the house. By proper management of the fuels near the house, a fire would not be able to generate enough heat to ignite the home. This area often has irrigation, is planted with ornamental vegetation, and is regularly maintained.

For more information on how to prepare your property against wildfires go to the “Living With Fire” website at:  http://www.livingwithfire.info/what-can-home