Eliminating Fuel Outside The Home

Drought conditions have permeated much of the country in the last several years. Particularly hard hit has been the Western US although fires can occur just about anywhere there is kindling or fuel. Most cities, counties, and states have protective guidelines or restrictions known as defensible space around homes and outbuildings. Such guidelines/restrictions can reduce the risk of fire. Besides risk reduction, defensible space also allows firefighters to do their job more effectively when fire does occur. Primary tools that can aid in establishing defensible space include Maxim Tillers, reciprocating saws, hardhats, wheelbarrows, ladders, and more.

The Case for Defensible Space

safe appearing home exteriorCreating and maintaining a fire retardant perimeter essentially creates a buffer zone between any building on your property such as your home, shed, barn, etc. and the potential fuel that can burn them. Common fuels can include grasses (particularly dry), trees, shrubs, and pine needles that can serve as tinder. Yet, certain kinds of fire-retardant vegetation such as succulents and some shrubs can boost the chance of your home surviving the fire by slowing or even stopping it from spreading. In short, establishing defensible space with appropriate vegetation reduces the chance of direct flames or radiant heat that can burn your home or building

Defensible Space Zones 

It is important to check with your local community to determine their requirements or suggestions before creating a defensible space perimeter. As a rule, perimeters are typically comprised of two zones of up to 100 feet, per below:

Zone 1: Clearance 30 to 50 Feet From All Buildings

  • Eliminate all dry, dead leaves and pine needles from the yard, roof and gutters
  • Eliminate dead plants, dried grasses and weeds
  • Trim and maintain trees with a reciprocating saw to keep all branches at least 10 feet from one another
  • Cut down any branches that touch the roof and/or house chimney to provide a 10 foot clearance
  • Never store wood piles in Zone 1 (relocate to Zone 2)
  • Highly flammable plants should either be removed to Zone 2 or trimmed regularly if planted close to windows
  • Establish separation between trees, shrubs and other items such as lawn furniture or playground equipment
  • Remove any and all flammables, including shrubs, near or under decks.

Zone 2: Perimeter Extending Beyond Zone 1

  • Keep annual grasses cut to no more than 4 inches in height
  • Establish appropriate horizontal space between trees and shrubs
  • Establish appropriate vertical space between trees, shrubs, and grasses
  • Eliminate fallen leaves, pine needles, cones, twigs, bark, and small branches unless allowed by your local jurisdiction for erosion control.

Tree and Plant Spacing

It is critical to keep optimal space between trees, shrubs, and grasses to slow or prevent fires from spreading. Check with your local lawn and garden retailer for tree type and size to determine space optimization. Sloped lawns can also impact spacing as bigger vegetation necessitates more space between each item. If your lawn/property’s trees and shrubs need relocating, we strongly recommend using Maxim tillers to prep the ground, along with a hole digger or auger to replant trees or shrubs that need to be moved. Please visit out Landscaping section under the Tools tab of our website for landscaping equipment and the Power Tools section for Saws.