By Brent McGhie, UC Master Gardener of Butte County, January 25, 2019
Even when homeowners have created a defensible space, the job of protecting their home from fire is never done. There will always be ongoing and annual jobs to do. Additionally, there are special tasks that will need to be completed every few years or on an as needed basis.
The ground in the inner 30 feet around a home should also be kept free of leaves, pine needles, weeds and other ground fuels. Dead plants and/or tree branches should be immediately removed, as should any tree branches overhanging the roof. Tree branches should also be kept at least 10 feet away from a chimney. Vines growing on trees, shrubs, or fences can act as fire ladders and should be removed. Roofs and gutters should be kept free of leaves, needles and twigs. Gutter covers can reduce, if not eliminate, fuel build-up in this area.
Annually, before fire season starts, grasses and weeds should be mowed to a height of about three to four inches for at least 30 feet around homes and other structures. Grasses and weeds should be maintained at this height throughout the fire season. In fact, ground fuels should be kept at a minimum throughout the defensible space. As an alternative to mowing, string trimmers are a safer option for vegetation removal. To reduce the risk of fire due to mowing, make sure your equipment is properly maintained, mow before 10 a.m. and never mow on a hot or windy day.
Woodpiles should be located at least 30 feet from a home and should have at least 10 feet of cleared space around them. Covering a woodpile, or storing wood in a fire-resistant structure such as a metal shed, lowers the odds of the pile igniting during a wildfire. In addition, miscellaneous combustible materials including construction debris and brush piles should be removed from your yard as quickly as possible.
To aid firefighters, be sure your address is clearly posted so that it is easily visible from the street, especially at night. Also, be certain firefighters have easy access to water sources in your yard and, if possible, clearly mark those water sources. Fires often lead to power outages, so if you are on a well, it would be prudent to have an emergency generator to operate the pump if the power does fail.
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