One of the best ways to protect your home against wildfires is to create a 30-foot clear space around your house, called a "defensible space." Defensible space is the area between the house and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation has been modified or removed to reduce the fire threat, giving firefighters an opportunity to defend the house effectively.
Creating defensible space
Creating a defensible space can include substituting less flammable plants for more hazardous vegetation or eliminating plants entirely from the space, particularly trees and shrubs. Before you begin work, please contact your local jurisdiction to be sure you comply with your city ordinances.
- Removal - Eliminate plants entirely, particularly trees and shrubs
- Reduction - Remove plant parts, such as branches or leaves
- Replacement - Substitute less flammable plants for more hazardous vegetation
- Remove tall, dry grasses and leaf accumulations that can provide a path for fire and lead it directly to your home.
- Remove leaves, needles, and other combustible debris from your roof and gutters. These, too, can catch fire from flying sparks and embers, spreading fire to your roof.
- Remove "ladder fuels", which are combustible materials that allow a fire to move from lower vegetation to taller fuels. This can be done by providing a separation between vegetation layers (brush and trees).
- Relocate firewood and other combustible debris (wood scraps, grass clippings, leaf piles, etc.) at least 30 feet uphill from your home.
Surface water, wetlands, or seasonal streams or slopes - Vegetation removal in these areas could have significant and long term environmental impacts. You can identify areas to avoid using Maps Online or by contacting Wetland/Habitat Review at WetlandHabitatReview@clark.wa.gov or 564.397.5855.
For properties within the city of Vancouver, the removal of vegetation for fire protection may require a tree removal and/or critical areas permit. Prior to any vegetation removal, please call 360.696.8105.
- Remove dead or overhanging branches near your house. These can catch fire during a wildfire from direct contact with flames or by flying sparks, which could then spread to the roof of the house.
- Prune bushes and shrubs on a regular basis to remove excess growth, dead leaves and branches. Once grasses and wildflowers have dried out or "cured", cut down and remove them from the defensible space area.
- Removing a dense stand of flammable shrubs and planting an irrigated, well maintained flower bed is an example of replacement.