The Importance of Defensible Space

Published on | Log Homes |Josh Horner

Preparing a house in case of a fire is something that many homeowners naturally do. You keep fresh batteries in your smoke detectors, have an exit strategy for every room in the house, and have extinguishers checked yearly. But if you live in a log home in the wildland-urban interface, you're going to have to take a few extra precautions by implementing what's known as defensible space. Here are a few reasons why it's so important to take extra care in defending your space.

Know the wildlife-urban interface

It's not surprising that many people who choose to live in log cabins enjoy living off the beaten path. And the further into the woods you choose to build, the more factors you'll have to keep in mind. If you choose to live in the wildland-urban interface, then you'll have to be mindful of natural forest fires, and how they can travel towards your home.

One reason you are more prone to being in jeopardy of these forest fires is because the wildland-urban interface is land that goes beyond human development, and reaches the beginning of unoccupied areas in nature. Basically you're living by the rules of nature, and it's important to respect those.

Protect the trees

Natural wildfires occur in order for trees to protect their environment and continue to thrive as a forest. As new seeds spread and older trees hold ground, there is not enough land and opportunity for all of the trees to make it. A wildfire will happen in order to thin out the forest and allow the strongest trees to survive. The trees that make it no longer have to fight as hard to use the resources and the space provided, giving them the opportunity to grow in a healthy environment.

When you live in a log home located in the wildland-urban interface, you should walk the forest around your house often in order to know if it needs to be thinned out. Look for smaller trees that others have outgrown. These will often have to be removed because they are unable to keep up with stronger trees. They are also a danger if a wildfire occurs because they keep the fire closer to the ground. Also look for trees that have suffered from damage, and ones that appear to have gone through a large amount of stress. These will often have more erratic angles and limbs.

Tips for Defensible Space

Creating defensible space is about more than just clearing small, dead and damaged trees, though. The goal of defensible space is to limit the amount of fuel around your home, thereby inhibiting the spread of a wildfire.

  • Defensible space should extend at least 100 feet out from your home, if possible.
  • Branches that extend over your roof and within 10 feet of your chimney should be trimmed. This will help prevent storm damage as well, year round.
  • Thin out the vegetation around your home so that it is not continuous.
  • Trim and thin trees closest to your home so that there is 10 feet of space between crowns.
  • If groups of trees are kept together, make sure space is made around the group as a whole.
  • Prune trees up to 10 feet above the ground to make it harder for a ground fire to jump into the trees.
  • Clean your gutter at least twice yearly. Embers carried by wind in the air can ignite the debris in your gutters
  • Make sure that you're clearing the debris from thinning and trimming as soon as possible. Don't let it dry out and become more fuel!

Pay attention to your surroundings

You should also pay attention to the trees that closely surround your home. Keep them properly trimmed so that limbs can't fall on your house. Try to keep the road that you would use to evacuate the area in case of a fire clear as well. Safely and properly store fuel and other flammable gases or liquids that you use in the running of your home a safe distance from the home itself.

If you are unsure whether or not you're doing everything you can to create defensible space and protect your log home from wildfires, then don't hesitate to call a professional to get more information. After all, safety comes first.

Image via Flickr by Dustin Summer