How Can You Be Firewise

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With the New Year comes a new perspective, hopefully built on experience gained during the last one. Across the Southeast, 2016 ended with extreme drought and some communities endured a historic wildfire season that occurred as a result. While fire is an important natural process in the forest, homes and communities don’t spring back as quickly as wildlands do. The images and film footage of the wildfires from last fall can be intimidating and worrisome. So what can we do to help keep our homes safe? What can we do to be FIREWISE? First, it is important to know how fire works. Fire needs oxygen, heat and a fuel source to exist. Without any one of these necessary elements fire cannot survive. Being “firewise” around your house focuses on removing possible fuels. Let’s begin with the space immediately adjacent to your house.  Through the seasons, but especially at the end of fall, leaves fall and collect along the base of your house, in the corners of adjoining walls and along the roof and gutters. Make sure these leaves and sticks are removed from around the house and removed from the yard completely.  In preparation for colder weather, firewood piles are often stacked near houses for easy access. This dried wood is perfect for fueling a fire in a woodstove, but it can also feed a wildfire. This is true for all the dead vegetation in and around a deck area of a house too.  Houses can even ignite from the radiant heat given off from a fire, so it is important to maintain a five-foot barrier around the house that consists of non-flammable landscaping materials or plants that have a high moisture content.  Having a “firewise” home also means relocating any gas tanks that are next to your home. Moving out from your house, trees should be pruned up to six feet off the ground and be spaced at least 20 feet apart and away from houses. If you have pine trees or other types of coniferous trees, this spacing should be increased to 30 feet due to their flammable sap. As you move out to 100 feet from the house, make sure piles of debris and other large accumulations of possible fuels are removed. If the forest canopy around your house is thick, consider thinning out smaller trees and opening the canopy so that the tree tops aren’t touching one another.

Wildfires can be an intimidating force and one that we should all take seriously. With a few preventative measures done around the house though, we can all be a little more “firewise.” For more information about making your property “firewise,” visit