Reducing wildfire risks through yard work

Wildfire risks remain high throughout the West, but a little yard work this weekend can go a long way to reducing your risk of property damage.

Among the most notable fires in the West, the so-called Highway 141 Fire is threatening at least 50 homes in the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River Gorge, according to The Oregonian. The fire is threatening the small town of White Salmon, WA and more than 400 residents have been told to prepare to evacuate. The fire has burned more than 1,200 acres since starting on Thursday and the growth potential remains high, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Reduce your wildfire risks by creating defensible space around your property while doing yard work this weekend. This includes maintaining vegetation and removing flammable materials in three zones surrounding your home. In particular, a 0-5 ft. zone immediately around your home should require the most careful selection and management of vegetation and other materials, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

Ask yourself the following questions below while creating defensible space. Afterwards, more details on creating defensible space are available at IBHS’ website. 

Do trees or branches hang over the building? 

  • Prune them back so that they are a minimum of 10 feet away.

Do you have vegetation that is close to, adjacent to or under vents, soffits or windows?

  • Remove flammable vegetation and replace with fire resistant varieties.

  • Plants in the area within 5 feet of the building can expose combustible siding, windows or interior corners to an increased risk of damage from embers and flames.

  • All vegetation needs to be maintained, but ground cover or small plants will be less of a problem here.

  • Larger plants, particularly those that tend to generate an abundance of dead material will pose a significant threat.

  • For all plants, shorten the height, remove branches that are close to the ground, prune to reduce the amount of material in the plant, and remove dead material. 

Do you  have plants with the following characteristics? If so, replace them.

  • Generate ground litter from bark, leaves, or seeds that slough off

  • Have (very low moisture content) dead material within the plant

  • Have small branches and needles that can easily ignite

  • Have a high resin or volatile content 


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