TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Homeowners should first take a look around their home. If they have heavy vegetation close to their house or a lot of flammable things in the yard, it might be time to clean it all up.
A defensible space is an area around a building in which vegetation, debris, and other types of combustible fuels have been treated, cleared, or reduced to slow the spread of fire to and from the building, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Information about local vegetation, weather, and topography should be used to determine the Fire Severity Zone of an area, which can help determine the most effective design of a defensible space.
A defensible space is one of the most cost-effective ways to protect a building from a wildfire and can often be created by the property owner by using zones. FEMA breaks it down to the following:
Zone 1 (within 30 feet of the home) would be the following steps:
- Eliminate all combustible materials such as fire-prone vegetation, firewood stacks, combustible patio furniture, umbrellas, and dimensioned lumber decking. Desirable substitutions include irrigated grass, rock gardens, stone patios, metal patio furniture, and noncombustible decking.
- Before fire season begins, remove combustible litter on roofs and gutters and trim tree branches that overhang the roof and chimney.
Zone 2 (over 30 feet from the home) there are a few tips to remember:
- Use hardscape features such as driveways and paved or gravel walkways or patios to create firebreaks throughout the yard.
- Plant fire-resistant, low-volume vegetation that retains moisture well and needs minimum maintenance such as pruning and removing dead and dying branches.
- Separate auxiliary structures such as a detached garage, pump house, pergola, and utility shed from the home by at least 50 feet. Increase the distance if the structure is used for the storage of combustible materials.
Zone 3 (more than 100 feet from home):
- Reduce fuels that are farther than 100 feet from the building by thinning and pruning vegetation horizontally and vertically as discussed above. Thinning and pruning in Zone 3 can be more limited than in Zone 2. The goals in this zone are to improve the health of the wildlands and help slow an approaching wildfire. Zone 3 is also an aesthetic transition between the more heavily modified Zone 2 and the unmodified surroundings.