Forest Fire Safety

Source: Bent Tree Forest Stewardship Management Plan, October 1997

Part A - Guidelines for Creating Defensible Space (Page 31 in Plan)

  1. Thin continuous tree and brush cover within 30 feet of your home.  In the 30 foot "defensible space," adequate thinning is reached when the outer edge of tree crowns are at least 10-12 feet apart.  Occasional clumps of 2-3 trees are acceptable if more space surrounds them.  Small patches of brush or shrubs may be left if they are separated by at least 10 feet of irrigated grass or noncombustible material.  If the home is located on the crest of a steep hill, thin fuels at least 100 feet below the crest.

  2. Dispose of all slash and debris left from thinning.

  3. Remove dead limbs, leaves and other ground litter within the defensible space.

  4. Stack firewood uphill and at least 15 feet from your home.

  5. Maintain an irrigated greenbelt immediately around your home using grass, flower gardens, fire resistant plantings, rock or other non-combustible material. Avoid bark or wood chip mulch in this area.

  6. Mow dry grasses and weeds to a height of 2 inches or less and keep well-watered, especially during periods of high fire danger.

  7. Prune branches from trees within the defensible space to a minimum of 6-10 feet above the ground. Also remove shrubs, small trees or other potential "ladder fuels" from beneath large trees; left in place, these can carry a ground fire into the tree crown.

  8. Trim branches which extend over the eaves of your roof.  Remove branches within 15 feet of a chimney.

  9. Clean roof and gutters of pine needles and leaves to eliminate a fuel source for firebrands.

  10. Reduce density of surrounding forest at least 100 feet out from the home site (it is preferable to thin your entire lot). Thin tree crowns so they do not touch each other.

Part B - Landscape Management Tips (Page 32 in Plan)

  1. Learn to recognize Canada thistle, musk thistle and knapweed species.  Remove populations of these plants annually before they go to seed.

  2. Prune lower tree limbs to a height of at least six feet. Ten feet is better. This decreases ladder fuel loads, opens views and makes the forest safer for walking.

  3. Thin trees while they are small. There is less slash to dispose of and it is less work.

  4. Remove tree regeneration from view strips. Keep all trees below a height that retains views.

  5. For trees less than 15 feet high, a good rule is to have a distance between trees equal to the height of the tallest neighbor. Thus, a clump of four foot trees should have at least four feet between individuals and a clump of eight foot trees should have at least eight feet between them. A four foot tree and an eight foot tree should be eight feet apart. All small trees should be at least fifteen feet from larger trees. This practice eliminates ladder fuels beneath large trees and promotes a decrease in tree population as size increases.

  6. For minimal fire spread large trees should ideally be 10 to 20 or more feet apart to minimize crown contiguity, but remember that interlocking crowns in some clumps of large trees are important for Abert squirrel nesting habitat and also provide cover for birds.

  7. If your property contains mainly large trees, create canopy gaps by removing the large trees and allow younger trees to grow to diversify the age structure.

  8. Some doghair clumps may be desirable for wildlife habitat or screening. Swales and ridges may be good places for these. For fire safety it is best to retain thick clumps of trees near openings and away from other trees.

  9. Remove pine needles by raking at least 30 feet back from all structures.

  10. Access for fire equipment. Evaluate whether a fire truck can get into a forested area, especially where trees are thickest, areas where fire is most likely to approach or between forested areas and dwellings on hill slopes. The western boundary of Bent Tree I and III with Arrowwood and the Palmer Divide ridge line which separates dome lots in Bent Tree I from Bent Tree III are two areas where thinning trees near property boundaries, to permit fire-fighting access, might be especially useful.

  11. Emergency escape routes. If a fire was approaching down your street, do you have another route on which you could drive your vehicle to get to another road for escape? This is an excellent area for neighborhood cooperation and planning.