Firewise Landscaping Checklist

When designing and installing a FIREWISE landscape, consider the following:

  • Local area fire history.
  • Site location and overall terrain.
  • Prevailing winds and seasonal weather.
  • Property contours and boundaries.
  • Native vegetation.
  • Plant characteristics and placement (duffage, water and salt retention ability, aromatic oils, fuel load per area, and size).
  • Irrigation requirements.
  • To create a FIREWISE landscape, remember that the primary goal is fuel reduction.
  • To this end, initiate the zone concept. Zone 1 is closest to the structure; Zones 2-4
    move progressively further away.
  • Zone 1. This well-irrigated area encircles the structure for at least 30' on all sides, providing space for fire suppression equipment in the event of an emergency.Plantings should be limited to carefully spaced fire resistant species.
  • Zone 2. Fire resistant plant materials should be used here. Plants should be low growing, and the irrigation system should extend into this section.
  • Zone 3. Place low-growing plants and well-spaced trees in this area, remembering to keep the volume of vegetation (fuel) low.
  • Zone 4. This furthest zone from the structure is a natural area. Thin selectively here, and remove highly flammable vegetation.

Also remember to:

  • Be sure to leave a minimum of 30' around the house to accommodate fire equipment, if necessary.
    Carefully space the trees you plant.
  • Take out the "ladder fuels" -- vegetation that serves as a link between grass and tree tops. It can carry fire to a structure or from a structure to vegetation.
  • Give yourself added protection with "fuel breaks" like driveways, gravel walkways, and lawns.

When maintaining a landscape:

  • Keep trees and shrubs pruned. Prune all trees up to 6' to 10' from the ground.
  • Remove leaf clutter and dead and overhanging branches.
  • Mow your lawn regularly.
  • Dispose of cuttings and debris promptly, according to local regulations.
  • Store firewood away from the house.
  • Be sure the irrigation system is well maintained.
  • Use care when refueling garden equipment and maintain it regularly.
  • Store and use flammable liquids properly.
  • Dispose of smoking materials carefully.
  • Become familiar with local regulations regarding vegetative clearances, disposal of debris, and fire safety requirements for equipment.
  • Follow manufacturers' instructions when using fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Access additional information on the Firewise home page: www.firewise.org

FIREWISE Construction Checklist
When constructing, renovating, or adding to a FIREWISE home, consider the following:

  • Choose a FIREWISE location.
  • Design and build a FIREWISE structure.
  • Employ FIREWISE landscaping and maintenance.

To select a FIREWISE location, observe the following:

  • Slope of terrain; be sure to build on the most level portion of the land, since fire spreads rapidly, even on minor slopes.
  • Set your single-story structure at least 30 feet back from any ridge or cliff; increase distance if your home will be higher than one story.

In designing and building your FIREWISE structure, remember that the primary goals are fuel and exposure reduction. To this end:

  • Use construction materials that are fire-resistant or non-combustible whenever possible.
  • For roof construction, consider using materials such as Class-A asphalt shingles, slate orclay tile, metal, cement and concrete products, or terra-cotta tiles.
  • Constructing a fire-resistant sub-roof can add protection, as well.
  • On exterior wall cladding, fire resistive materials such as stucco or masonry are much better than vinyl which can soften and melt.
  • Consider both size and materials for windows; smaller panes hold up better in their frames than larger ones; double pane glass and tempered glass are more effective than single pane glass; plastic skylights can melt.
  • Cover windows and skylights with non-flammable screening shutters.
  • To prevent sparks from entering your home through vents, cover exterior attic and under floor vents with wire mesh no larger than 1/8 of an inch; make sure under eave and soffit vents are closer to the roof line than the wall; and box in eaves, but provide adequate ventilation to prevent condensation.
  • Include a driveway that is wide enough - 12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet and a slope that is less than 12 percent - to provide easy access for fire engines. The driveway and access roads should be well-maintained, clearly marked, and include ample turnaround space near the house. Also consider access to water supply, if possible.
  • Provide at least two ground level doors for safety exits and at least two means of escape - either a door or window - in each room, so that everyone has a way out.
  • Keep gutters, eaves, and roof clear of leaves and other debris.
  • Make an occasional inspection of your home, looking for deterioration such as breaks and spaces between roof tiles, warping wood, or cracks and crevices in the structure.
  • Also, inspect your property, clearing dead wood and dense vegetation from at least 30 feet from your house, and moving firewood away from the house or attachments, like fences or decks.

Any structures attached to the house, such as decks, porches, fences, and outbuildings should be considered part of the house. These structures can act as fuses or fuel bridges, particularly if constructed from flammable materials. Therefore, consider the following:

  • If you wish to attach an all-wood fence to your home, use masonry or metal as a protective barrier between the fence and house.
  • Use non-flammable metal when constructing a trellis and cover with high-moisture, nonflammable vegetation.
  • Prevent combustible materials and debris from accumulating beneath patio deck or elevated porches; screen under or box in areas below ground line with wire mesh no larger than 1/8 of an inch.
  • Make sure an elevated wooden deck is not located at the top of a hill where it will be in direct line of a fire moving up slope; consider a terrace instead.
  • Access additional information on the FIREWISE home page: www.firewise.org