“The key to maintaining defensible space
to eliminate as much potential fuel as possible.”
What you can do to help defend your
home from wildfires:
can improve your chances of surviving a wildfire by eliminating
fuels around your home that have accumulated, and by improving
establishing fuel-free areas around your home, you are giving
yourself a fighting chance to avoid losing your home to
recommendations vary for each homesite, depending on slope,
topography, and types of fuel nearby.
"How do I make
my home safer from wildfire?"
exactly is 'defensible space'?"
For lots of relevant, easy-to-use information, Check
out the Rogue Valley Fire Prevention Cooperative's
website at: http://www.rvfpc.com.
In particular, visit their link on Wildfire Preparedness:
Intro To Fire Suppression, and from there, the section
on Fire Prevention: Homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface
On the Preparing Your Home For Wildfire page, be
sure to use the list of Related Links (on the right)
to learn more about Defensible Space, Primary and
Secondary Fuel Breaks, Home Readiness: Fuel Reduction
Around Structures, Fire Safety in the Wildland Urban
Interface, Wildland Urban Interface Property Regulations,
and much more.
For additional information regarding homeowners' "defensible
space" legal obligations, see our summary on
Interface Legislation. (This page also has
other links to the Oregon Dept. of Forestry's full background
and latest developments on this issue.)
You can also view the Mail Tribune's article, "Preventing rural fires," that was published on Wed.,
February 11, 2004. This article also covers Senate Bill
360 ("SB-360") and its implications ("Homeowners
are responsible for thinning brush that could fuel wildfires
under Senate Bill 360").
"Under the act, rural landowners will have the option
of meeting the standards, which include creating a fuel
break from 50 to 100 feet from structures, depending on
the property's classification. Those who choose not to will
be responsible for paying a portion of the state's cost
of suppressing a fire that starts on their land and spreads
as a result of their decision not to meet those standards.
That liability could be as much as $100,000."
While fuel breaks are technically areas without any fuels at all, including
fire lines that get down to mineral soil where the duff (forest
leaves, needles, and other surface debris) has been removed, defensible
space can be exactly what the term says: areas that are defensible.
It is not necessary to remove all vegetation to create defensible
space. That is a myth. Defensible space can be landscaped, have
shrubs or trees, be irrigated areas, or watered lawn grass, as
well as rocked or cleared areas free of vegetation and other fuels.
Eliminate slash, remove dead fuels (vegetation, branches, or trees) and
prune up lower-hanging tree branches. Landscape with fire-resistant plants.
Selectively thin existing live fuels. Remove trees or shrubs that are too
close to, and would jeopardize, your home if they became involved with fire.
Homes on flat or gently sloping land should have a defensible space
radius (distance from structure) of at least 30 feet. This should
be increased to 100 feet if there is much shrubbery.
For those who live on a moderately-sloped hillside with either grass
or trees, a distance of 100 feet is recommended. This should be
increased to 200 feet with shrubbery./p>
On steep slopes of grass and/or trees, a 100-foot clearance is the
minimum, and with shrubbery, 200 feet.
Everyone should bear in mind that the new fuel break standards that apply
to all new home approval permits are a good gauge for us all,
even if we aren't facing a property inspection.
The following recommendations are made by Jackson County firefighters
experienced in protecting homes from wildfire. They do not take
precedence over local ordinances.
Jackson County Land Development Ordinance Chapter 280.100 requires a minimum
100-foot fuelbreak around all new construction within wildfire hazard areas.
Ideally, your home should have 2 fuel breaks around it: The first one should
be a continuous fuel break around your home at a 30-foot distance.
A second break should be established at 100 feet out.
The wider these breaks are, the more defensible the space and structures
within them will be. Even a few feet, however, where there are
no fuels, will help enormously to halt or deter a wildfire.
Having defensible space and fuel breaks does not guarantee that everything
behind these lines is safe, but gives you a significant advantage
in beating the odds of losing your home.
Preparing for Fire Season
For only about one more month, that elusive window of opportunity
known as "pre-fire season" still exists. During this
time, there are a number of things you can and should do to maximize
your own chances for fire safety once fire season hits.
The basic idea is to establish and maintain a fuel-free perimeter
zone around your house and other structures, either by manually
clearing away fuels and potentially flammable debris, or by keeping
areas of vegetation watered and green to prevent fuel development.
A handline of some kind as a perimeter "moat" is also useful.
In general, a space between structures and fuels of at least 30 feet
wide is recommended; this increases with slope. Homes situated
on steep terrain should have at least 100 feet free of flammable
material on all sides, ideally, with particular attention to the
south or downhill side, since fire travels uphill.
Regional Fuel Reduction Projects
In recent years, federal agencies and other organizations have become
increasingly concerned with assisting individuals who live in
rural-urban interface zones to reduce forest fuels for wildfire prevention.
The Lomakatsi Restoration Project, a local organization working to
reduce fuels and restore habitat in order to prevent a catastrophic
fire in the Ashland Watershed, is one of these. In addition, the
Lomakatsi Restoration Project provides its own workforce for the
For the last several years, the Colestin valley has received fuel
reduction assistance through this group, while the costs have
been covered by Lomakatsi Restoration Project funding grants.
These efforts have been particularly useful for reducing the fire hazard
in some of our denser, steeper, and more inaccessible terrain,
and in areas adjacent to or near railroad easements in the valley,
an historically recognized target for higher fire risk due to
the fire-sparking potential of the trains.
This past year, a new fuel reduction project in the valley has been
initiated, supported by the U.S. Forest Service through the Klamath
National Forest office. In order to meet its objective of maintaining
healthy forests, Klamath National forest workers have been removing
dead and diseased trees in the forest.
Since some of the removal areas involved are within the Colestin valley,
Klamath representatives first discussed the proposed project with
us. To inform local landowners and residents of the project, we
sent out the following letter during May (2004), together with
a letter from the Forest Service describing the project:
Colestin RFD's letter to our district landowners/residents:
May 8, 2004
Dear Colestin Resident:
The Colestin Rural Fire District Board of Directors has been
approached by representatives of the Klamath National Forest
to support the Colestin Fuels Reduction Project.
Briefly, the project involves taking out dead and diseased Ponderosa
and Jeffrey pines so that healthy trees can grow and not
become bug-infested. It has the added benefit of seriously
reducing the fuels (since dead and bug-infested trees create
very strong potential fuels) in order to assist with fire control.
We have taken the liberty of reproducing the letter from Ray
A. Haupt, District Ranger, because it does such a good job
outlining the problem and proposing a solution.
Because we know that forest management is a concern of many Colestin
residents we wanted to share this information with you and
invite you to attend our next Board meeting. We will meet
at the Hilt Church at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 21st. At that
meeting Carl Varak who is heading up this project will be
available to present more information and to answer questions
you might have.
The Board has heard from the Forest Service representatives,
studied the proposal and will take action on a recommendation
at that meeting.
We hope you will be able to attend.
Peggy A. Moore
Colestin Rural Fire District Board of Directors
U.S.F.S. Klamath National Forest letter to CRFD & district residents:
May 4, 2004
Dear Interested Party,
This is in response to your interest in the Colestine [sic] Fuels
Reduction Project. This Project is intended to treat approximately
425 acres of Ponderosa and Jeffery [sic] pine plantations
on the Klamath National Forest. The plantations are located
contiguously in T40S, R1E, Sec. 26, 34 and 35 and T41S,
R1E, Sec. 2. [Note: "T" denotes
Township, "R" Range, "S" & "E"
South & East, resp.]
A wildfire in 1935 created the need to reforest
this area. Planting took place in 1937; however, much of
the planted stock died, and snowbrush and manzanita filled
in the open areas. This brush was piled with a dozer in
1964 and then replanted to conifers. The current stand is
mainly comprised of 40-year-old trees, with scattered groups
and individual trees that are approximately 70 years old.
The crowns of the trees are now interlocked and diameter
growth is slowing. Inter-tree competition is now occurring
for site nutrients and water. Over the past two years, bark
beetles have begun killing trees individually and in small
groups. This mortality is increasing in distribution and
size. The beetle outbreak is becoming more successful due
to the overstocked condition of the stand as individual
trees do not have sufficient resources to repel the bugs.
This plantation is also at high risk from catastrophic fire.
Although the trees average 30-100 feet in height, they still
have branches nearly to the ground and many have live foliage.
This, in conjunction with the almost closed canopy, would
allow a surface fire to easily get into the crowns and spread
throughout the stand. As evidenced by the 1935 and 1981
incidents, stand-replacing fires can and do occur in this
area. The current vegetation and fuel attributes place these
stands in a Fire Regime Condition Class 2.
The project proposes to reduce stand densities and treat the
resultant slash. Some of the work will simply be cutting
the trees and hand piling them, particularly on the steeper
slopes. The piles will be burned during the wet season.
On the gentler ground (usually [less than] 35 [per cent]),
mechanized equipment may be used to cut, skid and de-limb
the tree boles. The larger stems (10 [inches] on the large
end) may actually be sold as logs. The smaller trees will
be piled along with the branches and tree tops. These piles
will be burned or, if market conditions permit, chipped
and sold as biomass. The resultant stand will have trees
spaced 24-28 feet apart, closer along draws and wet areas.
Black oak thickets may also be thinned. The slash will be
treated leaving a more fire and insect-resilient stand.
Forage and mast production will be enhanced for elk, deer
and turkey populations. With more site nutrients and water
available to the remaining trees, diameter growth will also
increase. No new roads will be built into the project area
and the existing roads will be improved for fire fighting
access. If treated as proposed, the area will return to
a Fire Regime Condition Class 1. The lowering in condition
class, simply put, means a change to a more natural condition,
which provides greater resilience to the effects of wildfire.
Ray A. Haupt
Scott River Ranger District
11263 N. Highway 3
Fort Jones, CA 96032-9702
For the latest information or further details about this project,
contact (fire chief) Steve Avgeris.
Recommendations for Fire Prevention & Fire