CREATING AN EFFECTIVE SURVIVABLE SPACE*...A Step-by-Step Guide
Are you worried about the wildfire threat to your home, but aren’t sure where to get started in making your home survivable? Follow these six steps to an effective survivable space...STEP ONE: HOW BIG IS AN EFFECTIVE SURVIVABLE SPACE?
The size of the survivable space is usuallyexpressed as a distance extending outwardfrom the sides of the house. This distancevaries by the type of wildland vegetationgrowing near the house and the steepness ofthe terrain.
On the“Recommended Survivable SpaceDistance” chart presented below, find thevegetation types and percent slope which bestdescribes the area where your house is located.Then find the recommended survivable spacedistance for your situation.
For example, if your property issurrounded by wildland grasses such ascheatgrass, and is located on flat land, yourrecommended survivable space distancewould extend 30 feet from the sides of thehouse. If your house is on a 25% slope and theadjacent wildland vegetation is dense tallbush, your recommended survivable spacedistance would be 200 feet.
If the recommended distance goes beyondyour property boundaries, contact the adjacentproperty owner and work cooperatively oncreating a survivable space. The effectivenessof survivable space increases when multipleproperty owners work together. The localassessor’s office can provide assistance if theowners of adjacent properties are unknown.Do not work on someone else’s propertywithout their permission.
Temporarily mark the recommendeddistance with flagging or strips of cloth tied toshrubs, trees, or stakes around home. This willbe your survivable space area.STEP TWO: IS THERE ANY DEAD VEGETATION WITHIN THE RECOMMENDED SURVIVABLE SPACE AREA?
Dead vegetation includes dead trees andshrubs, dead branches lying on the ground orstill attached to living plants, dried grass,flowers and weeds, dropped leaves andneedles, and firewood stacks. In mostinstances, dead vegetation should be removedfrom the recommended survivable space area.Adescription of the types of dead vegetationyou’re likely to encounter and therecommended actions are presented below onthe next page.STEP THREE: IS THERE A CONTINUOUS DENSE COVER OF SHRUBS OR TREES WITHIN THE RECOMMENDED SURVIVABLE SPACE AREA?
Sometimes wildland plants can occur as anuninterrupted layer of vegetation as opposedto being patchy or widely spaced individualplants. The more continuous and dense thevegetation, the greater the wildfire threat. Ifthis situation is present within your survivablespace area, you should “break-it-up” byproviding a separation between plants or small groups of plants. Dont forget to reduce thedensity of shelter belts located within thesurvivable area.STEP FOUR: ARE THERE LADDER FUELS PRESENT WITHIN THE RECOMMENDED SURVIVABLE SPACE AREA?
Vegetation is often present at varying heights, similar to the rungs of a ladder. Under these conditions, flames from fuels burning at ground level, such as a thick layer of pine needles, can be carried to shrubs, which can ignite still higher fuels like tree branches. Vegetation that allows a fire to move from lower growing plants to taller ones is referred to as “ladder fuel.” The ladder fuel problem can be corrected by providing a separation between the vegetation layers. Within the survivable space area, a vertical separation of three times the height of the lower fuel layer is recommended. For example, if a shrub growing adjacent to a large pine tree is three feet tall, the recommended separation distance would be nine feet. This could be accomplished by removing the lower tree branches, reducing the height of the shrub, or both. The shrub could also be removed.STEP FIVE: IS THERE AN AREA AT LEAST 30 FEET WIDE SURROUNDING YOUR HOUSE THAT IS “LEAN, CLEAN AND GREEN”?
The area immediately adjacent to your house isparticularly important in terms of an effectivesurvivable space. It is also the area that is usuallylandscaped. Within an area extending at least 30 feetfrom the house, the vegetation should be kept...
• Lean - small amounts of flammable vegetation,
• Clean - no accumulation of dead vegetation orother flammable debris, and
• Green - plants are healthy and green during the fireseason.
The “Lean, Clean and Green Zone Checklist” willhelp you evaluate the area immediately adjacent toyour house.STEP SIX: IS THE VEGETATION WITHIN THE RECOMMENDED SURVIVABLE SPACE AREA MAINTAINED ON A REGULAR BASIS?
Keeping your survivable space effective is acontinual process. At least annually, review thesesurvivable space steps and take action accordingly. An effective survivable space can be quicklydiminished through neglect.