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Reduce wildfire risk

by JoAnne Skelly

Wildfire season is just around the corner. The most important person in preventing a house from being destroyed during wildfire is the homeowner. It’s the actions a homeowner takes before a wildfire occurs that often make the difference.

Defensible/survivable space is the 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 home.



Creating a defensible space involves removing dead vegetation, thinning flammable native trees and shrubs, and planting more fire-resistant plant materials around the house.

The first step in making a property safer from the threat of wildfire is determining the size of an effective defensible space.



Go to University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s wildfire Web site, http://www.livingwithfire.info, for the recommended distances based on vegetation type and slope of the land, or call us at 887-2252 or 782-9960 for a copy of “Living with Fire, A Guide for the Homeowner.”

Remove all dead material within the determined defensible/survivable space. This material includes dead and dying trees; dead native or ornamental shrubs; dead branches; and dead leaves, needles or twigs still attached to plants or on the ground within 30 feet of a home. When removing shrubs and trees, cut them out rather than pulling them out of the ground in order to reduce erosion.

Sometimes people don’t reduce flammable vegetation on their properties because disposing of all the pruned material is a challenge. To solve this problem, the Carson City Fire Department purchased dump trailers and dumpsters for residents to use. These can be dropped off at an individual home or in a neighborhood to be filled with removed fuels. Call the Fire Department at 887-2210, ext. 1001 for information on using a trailer or dumpster.

After removing the dead material, create a separation between shrubs and trees of at least twice the height of the average shrub. Leave at least 10 feet between tree canopies. For homes on slopes, the distance needed between vegetation is greater. Also, create a separation between tree branches and lower growing plants that is three times the height of the lower vegetation layer.

Keep a “Lean, Clean, and Green” zone around your home that is at least 30 feet wide. The “Living With Fire” guide provides further details. Finally, maintain the defensible / survivable space each year. Maintenance is an ongoing activity.

The North Carson Fire Safe Chapter has reserved March 11-12 and March 25-26 for fuels reduction pickup for North Carson residents. Contact me at 887-2252 or skellyj@unce.unr.edu for information on locations.

Contact me or your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office for more gardening information. Or, check out many useful horticulture publications at http://www.unce.unr.edu. “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu

n JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.