In an urban environment, homes are often close together and share defensible spaces with neighboring structures. A combination of Firewise construction and landscaping can help homes withstand windblown embers, minimize the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the home or any attachments, and reduce the chance of fire spreading. The primary goal for Firewise landscaping is reducing fuel by limiting the flammable vegetation and materials surrounding the home and increasing the moisture content of remaining vegetation. The ‘home ignition zone’ is split up into three different areas. Source 1, 2, 3LEARN MORE
Home Ignition Zones
The home and the area 0-5 feet from the furthest attached exterior point of the home should be designed as a non-combustible area. The goal is to prevent flames from coming in direct contact with the structure. Science tells us this is the most important zone to take immediate action on as it is the most vulnerable to embers.
- Keep fire prone vegetation and dry debris 3-5 feet from your house
- Use rock or pebbles instead of bark or mulch next to your house
- Keep other flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn
- Avoid storing anything underneath decks or porches
- Consider fire-resistant material for patio furniture, swing sets, etc.
The area 5-30 feet from the furthest exterior point of the home. The goal of this zone is to give an approaching fire less fuel, which will help reduce its intensity as it gets nearer to your home or any structures.
- Creates a fuel break with pavers and rock paths
- Control the density and location of highly flammable vegetation within 30 feet of your home or up to your property line
- Avoid fire prone plants that have a high oil/resin content or accumulate a lot of dead material such as arborvitae, juniper, rosemary, and yew
- Look for plants with high moisture content, low growing, and deciduous or broad leaf evergreens. Colorado State University Extension Firewise Plant List
- Prune tree limbs within six feet of the ground
- Prune branches to no closer than ten feet from your home and deck
- Space shrubs apart at a minimum distance of two times the height of the tallest shrub.
The area 30-100 feet, out to 200 feet, from the furthest exterior point of the home. The goal is not to eliminate fire but to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames smaller and on the ground.
- Trees 30-60 feet from the home should have at least 12 feet between canopy tops.
- Trees 60-100 feet from the home should have at least 6 feet between the canopy tops.
- The crown spacing needed to reduce/prevent crown fire potential could be significantly greater due to slope, the species of trees involved and other site-specific conditions. Check with your local forestry professional to get advice on what is appropriate for your property.
Guidelines For Safe Gardening from Boulder County Public Health
Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) recommends residents whose properties have been affected by the Marshall fire take extra steps to stay healthy when gardening this spring and has created a flowchart to help assess potential risk. Smoke, ash and soot from urban fires, like the Marshall fire, that burned structures, vehicles, everyday household products, plastic, rubber and automotive components can produce unhealthy particles and harmful contaminants, such as heavy metals, which can settle in soil and create unsafe conditions for gardens. “The intense heat from urban fires reduces the number of micro-organisms in soil and negatively affects organic matter and nutrients. In addition, ash can make soils more alkaline over time,” said Joe Malinowski, Environmental Health Division Manager. “This damage causes temporary changes in your soil’s ability to flourish in your garden and to grow edible fruits and vegetables that are safe to eat. Getting your soil tested before gardening is the best way to determine its condition.” If there is ash on your property as the result of a burning structure, or if you have a thick layer of ash because you were close to the fire, there may be hazardous chemicals that require special handling. In this circumstance, BCPH recommends working with an environmental restoration service to remediate the property safely. Removing a significant amount of soil may require water misting to suppress dust and contaminated soil must be disposed of at an approved site. If you have soil or lawn clippings that may be contaminated with ash in your garden or lawn, BCPH recommends the following steps to mitigate any potential health hazards safely:
- Wear an N95 mask and gloves when moving or disturbing soil that may contain ash or soot. Anyone with respiratory illnesses is advised to talk with their healthcare provider about what they can do to stay safe and whether they should wear an N95 mask.
- Use a shovel or hoe to scrape and collect surface soil.
- Try to minimize the amount of soil and dirt that is dispersed in the air.
- Dispose of soil and lawn clippings via your regular trash disposal.
- Take off your shoes before going inside and immediately remove and wash clothes in a washing machine.
- Wash your body thoroughly.