GREAT FALLS — With the transition to autumn and cooler weather, the worst of wildfire season may appear to be behind us - but fire experts say it's never a bad time to survey your home and take preventive measures to protect it.
By performing simple maintenance tasks and removing fuels within the home ignition zone, you can greatly improve the chance of your home surviving a wildfire.
The Montana Fire Info website provides the following guidance:
Immediate Zone: 0-5 feet
- Cover all vents with 1/8-in mesh screening
- Fill any gaps in your home's siding and trim materials with quality caulk.
- Fill any openings between the roof covering and the roof deck with a nonflammable material.
- Use only nonflammable fencing materials in this zone.
- Create a 3- to 5-foot clean and non-combustible perimeter using concrete or rock mulch.
- Remove all vegetation in this zone.
- Remove tree limbs that extend into this zone.
- Relocate all combustible materials, including garbage, lumber, and lawn/patio accessories, to outside this zone.
- Clean all fallen leaves and needles from this zone - don't forget about your gutters and roof valleys.
- Locate propane tanks at least 30 feet from any structures.
Intermediate Zone: 5-30 feet
- Remove all dead grasses, weeds, plants, and foliage.
- Keep lawns and native grasses mowed an water all vegetation regularly.
- Grow non-woody, low height, herbaceous plants.
- Provide at least 18 feet of space between remaining shrubs and trees. Increase spacing on steep slopes.
- Store firewood or other combustible materials at least 30 feet away from your home.
- Remove limbs 6' to 10' from the ground.
- Remove branches that overhang or touch the roof, making sure there is at least 10ft between the structure and the nearest branch.
- Clear vegetation around fences, sheds, outdoor furniture, and play structures.
- Create fuel breaks with non-flammable walkways, paths, and driveways.
Extended Zone: 30-100 feet
- Thin trees to a minimum of 12 feet between tops of trees to break up continuous fuels.
- Remove small conifers growing between mature trees to create a separation between ground vegetation and mature trees.
- Remove leaf and needle debris from your yard.
- Keep grasses and wildflowers under 8" in height.
- Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.
- Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings.
- Maintain space clear of vegetation on either side of your driveway and access roads so that emergency vehicles can reach your home.
The Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (DNRC) offers homeowners free consultation site visits; click here to learn more.