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Fire preparedness

[Information taken directly from the Clear Creek County website]

What is a defensible space?
According to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group it is defined as, "a fuel break adjacent to improvements in which you can safely defend improvements". This is a firefighters definition, and one which is accurate, but not one which appeals to the aesthetics visualized by the property owner for their "dream home". The concept of defensible space is the leading deterrent to fire intensity around your home. It is easy to understand that for a structure to survive a wildfire, radiated heat and fire intensity must be kept to a minimum.

Creating an effective defensible space involves developing a series of three management zones in which different treatment techniques are used. These zones are generally described as follows: Zone 1 - consists of an area 15 feet around the structure in which all flammable vegetation is removed. Zone 2 - typically should extend at least 75 to 125 feet from the structure. Thin trees so there is at least 10 feet between crowns. Eliminate ground clutter type fuels and trim lower tree limbs to about 10 feet. Zone 3 - is the area of existing forest from the edge of Zone 2 out to the property boundaries.

How should I select the trees to be thinned?
The selection of trees to be cut should be made by considering the crown spacing. The crown spacing is wider, closer to the home, and narrow as the distance from the home increases. Smaller trees and diseased trees may be selected first but consideration should be given to not eliminate all young growth.

Do I have to clear cut everything from around my home?
This is a misconception of the defensible space program. The area immediately adjacent to the home is 3 - 5 feet wide. In this area it is advised not to plant if the home is sided with flammable material. If the home has non-combustible siding, widely spaced shrubs are acceptable but should not be planted under windows or next to vents. From this zone, extending out away from the home, the crown spacing decreases gradually and blends into the traditional forest management.

What else can I do to help protect my home?
There are numerous suggestions that can be found in the Colorado State Forest Service.

Some of the more important but often overlooked items are:
  • clear roof and gutters of leaves and pine needles
  • remove branches overhanging the roof or chimney
  • stack firewood uphill from home
  • plant fire resistant vegetation for landscaping
  • place shutters or heavy drapes on windows
  • screen foundation or eave vents
  • practice family fire drill and evacuation plan
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