First posted on 08-21-2012
The recent wildfires throughout Oklahoma have sparked the interest of homeowners who have watched houses go up in flames too many times this summer.
To increase your house’s chances of surviving the next wildfire, Terry Bidwell, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension rangeland ecology and management specialist, said to start with a chainsaw, rake and a lawnmower.
“You want to create a defensible space of about 100 feet all the way around the house,” he said. “Keeping the grass short and the trees trimmed is vital to the safety of your home.”
All trees within this 100-foot radius should be pruned to where you can walk under the lowest branches without hitting your head. Any ladder fuels, such as bushes or shrubs that allow a surface flame to engulf the tree canopy also should be removed.
“Any trees in the yard should ideally have about 30 feet of space between them to keep fires from traveling through the canopy,” Bidwell said. “Just because the leaves of the trees are green doesn’t mean they won’t burn. That’s a common misconception.”
Once the trees are trimmed and the grass is mowed, all the debris needs to be removed, as it will serve as fuel to a wildfire.
“The main idea is to remove any fuels away from the house,” Bidwell said. “Aside from prescribed burning to clear much of these fuels, regular maintenance is the next best thing.”
A division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Oklahoma Forestry Services, has helpful information for homeowners on its website at http://www.forestry.ok.gov. The National Firewise Communities (NFC) program also should be referenced for people to become proactive against wildfires before they happen.
Taking simple steps such as raking back leaves and cleaning out gutters could save a house or structure from a fire. Remove items that will burn easily from around the house, including trees, firewood and dense vegetation.
Tips like these and others concerning construction, topography, fuels and landscaping can be found on the NFC website (http://firewise.org).
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