Are you worried about the wildfire threat to your home, but
aren't sure how to get started making your home survivable?
Follow these recommendations to an effective, survivable
Is there at least a 30-foot-wide area surrounding your home
that is "Lean, Clean and Green?"
Lean...small amounts of flammable vegetation.
Clean...no accumulation of dead vegetation or other flammable debris.
Green...plants are healthy and green during the fire season.
[Prune: Branches and limbs 6?10 feet off the ground on all trees
within a 30 to 100 foot radius of buildings.]
[Remove: Limbs within 10 feet of chimney, and dead limbs overhanging
[Screen: Half-inch mesh screen on chimney outlet.]
[Clean: All needles and leaves off roofs and out of gutters.]
Lean, Clean, Green checklist
- Emphasize the use of low-growing herbaceous
(non-woody) plants that are kept green during the
fire season. Herbaceous plants include lawn, clover,
a variety of ground covers, bedding plants, bulbs,
and perennial flowers.
- Deciduous ornamental trees and shrubs are acceptable
if they are kept green, free of dead plant material,
ladder fuels are removed, and individual plants or
groups of plants are arranged in a manner in which
adjacent wildland vegetation cannot convey a fire
through them to the structure.
- Where permitted, wildland shrubs and trees should be
removed from this zone and replaced with more nonwoody
plants such as flowers. Individual specimens or
small groups of wildland shrubs and trees can be
retained so long as they are kept healthy, free of dead
wood, and pruned to reduce the amount of fuel and
height, and ladder fuels are removed.
- For some areas substantial removal of wildland
vegetation may not be allowed. In these instances,
wildland vegetation should conform to the recommended
separation distances, should be kept free of dead plant
materials, pruned to remove ladder fuels and reduce fuel
load, and arranged so it cannot readily convey a fire
from the wildlands to the house. Please become familiar
with local requirements before removal of wildland
- Tree limbs within 15 feet of a chimney, encroaching
on power lines, or touching the house should be
What trees and shrubs and fuels do I have within my survivable space?
Dried grasses & wildflowers
Once grasses and wildflowers have dried out or "cured", cut
down and remove from the survivable space area.
Needles, leaves & branches (on the ground)
Reduce thick layers of pine needles on the ground to a depth
of 2 inches. Do not disturb the "duff" layer (dark area at the
ground surface where needles are decomposing) if present.
Remove dead leaves, twigs, cones, and branches that are
within the survivable space area.
Shrubs & trees
Remove all dead shrubs and trees from within the defensible
Firewood & other combustibles
Locate firewood, LPG tanks, and combustible debris (wood
scraps, grass clippings, leaf piles, etc.) at least 30 feet away
from any buildings.
The more continuous and dense the
vegetation, the greater the wildfire threat. If
this situation is present within your survivable
space area, you should "break it up."
This can be done in a variety of ways,
depending on the type and arrangement of
the vegetation. On the table to the right,
look for the vegetation type you have in
your yard and follow the recommended
practice in the table. This will make your
yard more fire safe.
Are there ladder fuels present within the
survivable space area? Vegetation is often
present at varying heights similar to the
rungs of a ladder. Under these conditions,
flames from fuels burning at ground level,
such as a thick layer of pine needles, can be
carried to shrubs that can ignite still higher fuels
like tree branches. Vegetation that allows a
fire to move from lower growing plants to
taller ones are referred to as "ladder fuels."
The ladder fuel problem can be corrected
by providing a separation between the
vegetation layers. This can be accomplished
by reducing the height of shrubs, removing
the lower tree branches, or both. The shrubs
could also be removed.
Fire spread is governed by the fine nonwoody
fuels that have cured or are nearly
cured. Fires are surface fires that move
rapidly through cured grass and associated
material. Very little shrub or timber
is present, generally less than one-third
of the area. Open pine stands with an
understory of grass and timber litter can
be included in this category, contributing
to higher fire intensity.
Slow burning ground fires with low
flame heights are generally the case, although
an occasional "jackpot" or heavy
fuel concentration may cause a flare-up.
Conifer stands with heavy fuel loading
of balsam fir, windthrow, diseased trees,
and cured slash contribute to possible
torching of trees, spotting and crowning
Pine plantations with a continuous
canopy also contribute to higher fire intensity.
This may lead to potential fire
Generally, hardwood stands such as oak,
maple, basswood and aspen do not experience
much fire activity.
During drought conditions, stands with
an understory of grass and conifers may
see an occasional fire. Fire intensity is
influenced by wind speed and fuel moisture.