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How can I prevent a wildfire from destroying my home?

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The National Interagency Fire Center predicts near to above normal fire activity for the 2005 wildfire season, and southwest Utah has had nine fires to date. A campground and several homes have been evacuated, outbuildings have burned, I-15 has been closed and summer is still in its early stages.

If you reside within or adjacent to wildlands, be aware that a few hours of light-duty yard work done now can save your home or cabin from being destroyed in a wildfire.

According to USDA Forest Service Research Physical Scientist Jack Cohen, it’s the little things that cause homes to burn in a wildland fire. Consider the following tips to protect your home and property.

Remove debris. Collect and remove dead vegetation such as leaves, needles and sticks that accumulate within a minimum distance of 30 feet from your home. This will significantly reduce the ignitability of your home. However, to be effective it must be done on a regular basis, depending on the type and amount of vegetation surrounding your home. When you see pine needles and leaves accumulating in the valleys of the roof and in the corners of the deck, it is time to collect and remove them.

Move firewood, construction materials and other flammable items so they are at least 30 feet away from your home, especially during the summer.

Enclose the eaves of your home with soffits. Screen all vents and other openings. This will reduce the chances that blowing embers could start a fire in an attic space. If wasps can get in, so can burning embers.

Be sure propane tanks are located at least 30 feet from any structure and surrounded with 10 feet of clearance.

Prevent flames from directly hitting your home by appropriately pruning or cutting highly flammable trees and bushes. Evergreens and scrub oak tend to be highly flammable, while aspen and broad-leafed ornamentals tend to be less flammable.

Make sure that emergency personnel can easily locate and identify your home. Be sure house numbers are clearly marked and unblocked.

Provide enough overhead and turnaround space for entering and exiting of fire fighting equipment.

Take the time to protect your home. Homes that do not meet these minimum specifications are less likely to receive full consideration by firefighters since they pose an unnecessary risk to personnel and equipment.

For a list of firewise plants for Utah landscapes or other wildland fire education materials, contact USU Extension Forestry at 435-797-0560, or visit extension.usu.edu/forestry.

Posted on 15 Jul 2005

Darren McAvoy
Forestry Program Associate

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