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Living With Fire Tip #16 Defensible space: How much do you need?

Posted 7/27/2007

The term “defensible space” refers to the area between a house and a potential oncoming wildfire where the vegetation has been managed to reduce the wildfire threat and allow firefighters to safely defend the house. In the event that firefighters are not available, defensible space also helps to improve the likelihood of a home surviving without assistance.

The recommended size of the area needed to create an effective defensible space is not the same for every home. It varies depending on the dominant vegetation and the steepness of the slope surrounding the home. For example, a home located in an area with sagebrush or junipers with a moderate slope of 21 to 40 percent should have a defensible space extending 200 feet from the home. A home in an area with this same type of vegetation located on flat land or land having a gentle slope up to 20 percent requires a defensible space area extending only 100 feet.

To calculate the defensible space area that your home should have, refer to the chart below. Or, log on to www.livingwithfire.info, and go to the “Before The Fire” section. You’ll find a “defensible space calculator” and other helpful information on creating an effective defensible space.

Remember, if the defensible space zone exceeds your property’s boundaries, be sure to ask permission from adjacent landowners before doing work on their properties, or encourage them to take their own action. Also, note that the effectiveness of the defensible space zone improves when entire neighborhoods implement these practices.

To learn more about protecting your home from the threat of wildfire, visit www.livingwithfire.info or contact Ed Smith, natural resources specialist, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, (775) 782-9960 or smithe@unce.unr.edu. Living With Fire is an interagency program coordinated by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

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