You can help control these types of ignition sources by creating defensible space around your home, beginning with the 0-5 foot zone. This Zone includes the Home Exterior, Attachments (like decks and fences), and the immediate landscaping around your home.
Homes and the surrounding area are vulnerable to three ignition sources:
EMBERS: Burning pieces of airborne vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind. They cause spot fires by landing on debris around your home. Embers can smolder in woodpiles, patio furniture and debris filled gutters. They can enter your home through attic and crawlspace vents.
SURFACE FIRES: These can be fast-moving fires that burn through grass, leaves, needles, branches, and shrubs. They can ignite houses and attachments like fences, decks and porches.
CROWN FIRES: This extreme type of wildfire burns in the tops of trees, is heavily influenced by wind, and and is very difficult to control. Crown fires generate embers that can travel more than a mile and create spot fires beyond the main fire.
The Home Exterior
THE ROOF: Keep roofs clean from leaf litter and pine needles. Litter in gutters or roof valleys, and bird or rodent nests under tiles on the roof are common causes of embers igniting a house. Remove all tree limbs within 10 feet of chimneys, or that overhang the roof. Conifer and cypress branches should be pruned to a minimum distance of 10 feet from any point of a structure.
ROOFING MATERIALS: Replace wood shake roofs with Class B or Class A roofing materials. Types of Class A fire-rated roofing products offer the best protection (i.e. Composite shingles, metal, cement tile and clay). Inspect shingles/tiles and replace or repair any that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration. If gaps exist between the roof covering and the roof deck at the eave or ridge, fill the space with a "bird stop" material.
GUTTERS: Metal roof gutters do not ignite, only the debris material that accumulates in them. Vinyl roof gutters can ignite when the debris material is ignited and flaming gutters can fall from the roof edge and land next to the house, which is why the first 0-5 feet (Immediate zone) needs to be clear of flammable materials.
FIREPLACE CHIMNEYS: Remove all tree limbs within 10 feet of the chimney, or that overhang the roof. Remove debris that may accumulate at roof-to-wall intersections. Install a spark arrestor if not already present. When wildfires are approaching, close the damper, fireplace screens and glass doors.
SCREENS: Check all exterior vents along the eaves, walls, and foundation to make sure the screening is intact. Roof, attic and crawlspace vents should be screened with 1/8-inch metal screening to prevent ember entry.
WINDOWS: Windows are one of the weakest parts of a home in a fire, usually breaking before the house ignites. Trim vegetation away from windows. Burning vegetation close to a window can break glass, allowing fire to enter. Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows. Multi-paned tempered glass can help reduce the risk of fracture or breaking in a wildfire. Closable, solid exterior shutters can provide extra window protection. Keep roof skylights free of debris. If your roof is steeply pitched, consider using flat, double-paned glass instead of a domed skylight. Glass is a better option than plastic or fiberglass.
WALL ATTACHMENTS: prevent accumulations of dead and dry vegetation around hose reels, planters or other wall attachments. Wood-product exterior siding is combustible; make sure it is in good condition. Seal gaps and crevices. Examine the siding for locations where embers could accumulate or lodge and apply caulking at trim-to-siding locations where it is missing or has failed. Use ignition-resistant building materials on exterior walls whenever possible (i.e. masonry products, stucco, plaster and cement).
DECKS AND ELEVATED PORCHES: Never store flammable materials underneath elevated decks/porches. Remove dead vegetation and debris from under decks/porches, and between deck board joints. Place 1/8-inch metal screening between low-profile decks from surface to ground, to block embers from collecting underneath.
FENCING: Wooden fences can carry flames directly to the house. Use non-flammable fencing material (metal or masonry) when attaching directly to the siding. Ensure there's a minimum of at least 5-feet of noncombustible material where it attaches to the siding. Do not add vines or other types of vegetation to fencing material.
NOOKS AND CRANNIES AND OTHER SMALL SPACES: Stay aware of small spaces like around A/C units, hot tubs and garden sheds, or along up-slope sides of structures that may collect dry vegetation debris. Keep clean and clear of debris throughout fire season. Weather seal the perimeter of garage doors/basement doors to help keep embers out. Be sure doors are tight fitting, so embers can’t slide under the door or in from the sides. Close and protect pet doors when wildfires are approaching to prevent embers from gaining access to the home.
Landscaping in the 0-5 foot Zone
Create a "fuel-free" zone within 5 feet of any structure, including decks – Bark mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, combustible storage, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Never place bark mulch underneath decks or porches, and replace bark mulch with non-combustible products such as stone, finished compost or bare dirt.
Plant only "Fire-safe" landscape plants when planting in this zone, and do not plant flammable plants within the first 5 feet of the home (in fact, it is prohibited in Ashland to plant select flammable plants within 30 feet of the home). Click to view both the Firewise Plant List and the Prohibited Flammable Plants lists.
Frequently remove dead vegetation, dried leaves, pine needles and ground debris accumulations with the first 5 feet of the home.
Hardscaping features (e.g. stone, gravel, concrete) should be installed around the perimeter of the home whenever possible, to help keep the ground free of vegetation, ground litter and debris.
Trim away deciduous tree limbs that overhang the roof and gutters
Keep conifer and cypress branches a minimum of 10 feet away from all structures