How to create defensible space around your home during wildfire season

Local News

UTAH (ABC4) – As the heat continues and fire season ramps up, some experts are asking Utahns to do their part in helping firefighters keep homes safe.

“It doesn’t take 60-foot spruces to have fire danger,” explains Utah State University Extension Forester Dr. Mike Kuhns.

Dr. Kuhns says maple, oak, and juniper trees are some of the most common sources of fire fuel in the state. He tells ABC4 that while those trees are much smaller than many pines, they are just as dangerous during wildfires and should be well maintained near homes.

Dr. Kuhns says homes in dense vegetations areas along the Wasatch Front ranging from the Cache Valley to the Salt Lake City area are high risk during a wildfire. However, homeowners can bring down that risk by creating defensible space for firefighters.

If homes in high-risk areas don’t have defensible space and a fire breaks out, Dr. Kuhns says firefighters may have a difficult choice to make. He says the firefighters may have to ask themselves: “Do I go there and I’m going to be safe and I’m going to save that home, or do I go there and I’m going to put myself and my crew in danger.”

To make the choice easier for fire crews, Dr. Kunhs suggests fire smart landscaping.

The first three to five feet from the home should be a no-burn zone with little to no vegetation. Five to 60 feet from the house should consist of well-maintained lawns, shrubs, and trees. Sixty to 150 feet should be clean of overgrowth and have few trees.

“Remove trees so that you have clumps of vegetation, but with no or little vegetation between the clumps as an example,” Dr. Kuhns explains. “So, one clump might burn, but it’s well away from the next grouping.”

If you don’t know where to start when creating defensible space, Dr. Kuhns says think of it as “reducing the amount of stuff that can burn that you have control of.”

Dr. Kuhns says creating defensible space needs to be a team effort among neighbors. He says if one house on the block is safe, it helps make the others safer as well.

For more information from Dr. Kuhns about defensible space and fire-wise practices, click here.

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