Given the recent rash of wildfires in Colorado and other western states I thought it prudent to re-run an article from May of this year.
No one wants to think about the worst-case scenario or worry about things they have no control over, like losing their home in a wildfire. By doing wildfire mitigation, homeowners can increase their safety and reduce the risk to life and property. However, given the unpredictable nature and behavior of wildfire, it should be noted that there are no guarantees. Fire mitigation is a series of steps that you can take to reduce the risk of a wildfire damaging or destroying your property. It includes assessing the risks around your property and your responsibility in mitigating them, thereby creating a defensible space.
Due to Colorado’s arid climate and many forests, homeowners and landowners may be particularly vulnerable to wildfires even in normal or heavy snowfall years. It is important to keep this threat in mind when buying or building a home. Homes in many areas of Colorado are threatened, damaged, or destroyed each year by wildfires. Anyone who is thinking of purchasing a home in forested or otherwise fire-prone areas should consider the hazard presented to the property by a wildfire and should attempt to mitigate its effects. If you are looking to buy new property, be sure to assess wildfire risk. Properties in low lying areas or in high wind zones that have high forest density are the most susceptible. If the property has a lot of acreage, make sure defensible space has been created within 150’ of the house. By doing wildfire mitigation work, homeowners can substantially increase their safety and reduce the risk to life and property.
Minimize or eliminate vegetation within 30 feet of your house, including trees and shrubs. Make sure grass is mowed frequently and never grows taller than six inches. Your driveway should be at least 30 feet wide to be able to accommodate emergency vehicles and give them a safe passage to your property. A driveway this wide will also provide a fire break. Assess the type of vegetation you have on your property. Many of the trees and plants common in Colorado pose an increased fire risk and should be removed if they grow within 150 feet of your home.
In Boulder County, land use codes require individuals who are constructing a new home in forested areas, or remodeling some existing homes, create and implement a Wildfire Mitigation Plan, which includes the creation and maintenance of effective defensible space. Other homeowners are encouraged, but not required, to create and maintain effective defensible space. Defensible space is an area between a house and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation has been managed to reduce the wildfire threat and allow firefighters to safely defend the house. Use materials such as asphalt shingles, slate or clay tile, or metal roof coverings. Ensure roof-covering assemblies do not contain openings that allow firebrand entry. Install fire-resistive or noncombustible construction materials on siding and walls. Eaves should extend beyond exterior walls with fire-resistive materials. Cover all vent openings to internal structure areas (attic, eave/soffit, foundation, etc.) with a corrosion-resistant, non-combustible wire mesh or screen that prevents firebrands from entering structures.
Concrete block, cement walls, or other fire-resistive materials should be used for foundation walls. Construct overhanging projections (decks, balconies, unenclosed roofs, etc.) of heavy timber, non-combustible or ignition resistant material. Minimize the size and number of windows on the downhill side of the house or the side most likely to be exposed to wildfire. Both the size and the type of materials used are crucial in windows and sliding-glass doors. Multi-paned glass or tempered glass is recommended.
Wildfire does not recognize property lines. If you effectively mitigate your property, you may help save your neighbor’s home and vice versa. Wildfires can impact entire communities. Linked defensible spaces are a key community protection strategy. Having a defensible space around your home may also lower your insurance premiums. The following links have more helpful information regarding fire mitigation: bouldercountycwpp.org; csfs.colostate.edu/wildfire-mitigation/community-wildfire-protection-plans.