Wildfire Prevention Strategy

Learn how to protect your home from wildfire by thinking in terms of these six lines of defense, from your own behavior, to the structure of your home, to the area surrounding your home:

#1 Reduce the Sources of Ignition

The first line of defense is to avoid starting a fire yourself. Be aware of the common sources of ignition and take precautions to control them, beginning within your home and then outside it and along the roadside.

#2 Make Fire Prevention a Year-Round Activity

In much of California it is useful to think of fire prevention in terms of two seasons. The dry season usually begins in mid-May, after the rains have stopped, and lasts until mid-November, when they begin again. Vegetation management is best done during the wet season.

#3 Reduce Your Home’s Vulnerability to Embers and Radiant Heat

glowing embers are a leading cause of home fires

A single glowing ember is all it takes to set your home aflame
[Photo by Jens Buurgaard Nielsen via Wikimedia Commons ]

In a wildfire your home is more likely to burn down as a result of smoldering embers than from any other source.

While direct contact by flames provides dramatic newsreels, it usually represents a short, passing pulse of flames that is less likely to ignite your home. In contrast, tiny embers can remain long after the fire front has passed by, then combine to ignite a fire.

A second common cause of ignition in areas where homes are crowded together is radiated heat that can ignite a structure from a distance of 30 feet or more. Vertical and uppermost surfaces are the most exposed to long-lived heat transfer. Even a small flame close to a window can break it, allowing flames to enter directly into the interior. Learn the many ways you can protect your home from embers and radiant heat.

#4 Create and Maintain a Non-Ignition Zone Adjacent to Your Home

non-ignition zone

Non-ignition zone

It important to create and maintain a non-ignition zone within the five feet immediately adjacent to your home so embers will not start a fire here that can ignite it. Learn what non-flammable materials and plants are recommended for this area.

#5 Create and Maintain Defensible Space around Your Home

Actions taken by homeowners before a wildfire occurs can make the difference between a home surviving or not. Creating defensible space means you need to be prepared to:

  1. Give yourself time to evacuate.
  2. Provide firefighters the opportunity to effectively defend your house.
  3. Encourage firefighters to consider your house salvageable when they perform structure triage.
  4. Increase the odds your home may survive on its own when firefighting resources are overwhelmed.

#6 Create a Wildland Fuel Reduction Buffer Zone

buffer zone example wildfire prevention

A wide buffer zone was created on this steep slope at the top of a fire chimney below thriving trees. Thick brush and dead willow limbs were removed gradually over a few years to minimize the number of decomposition piles left on the hill over time and to minimize erosion

Learn to be the steward of your own land on a long term basis with a nuanced approach to vegetation management beyond the first 30 feet or so. This is particularly helpful for larger properties and those with undeveloped areas.

For tips on mastering these six wildfire prevention rules, check out my book The Homeowner’s Guide to Wildfire Prevention.