Starve a fire
Around your house
- Have tools and water ready for fire. Maintain an outdoor water supply with a hose and nozzle that can deliver water to all parts of your house and yard. Store fire-fighting tools (rakes, hoes, axes, shovels) in an accessible place.
Within 100 feet of your home
- Create a defensible zone around buildings. Ensure that fire cannot spread within 100 feet of your house or other buildings. In this zone, mow dry grasses and weeds; prune branches of taller trees to a height of 6-10 feet; remove dead limbs, fallen leaves, and other dry fuels; keep plants watered; and maintain open space between tree crowns.
- Clear pine needles, leaves and branches. Dispose of heavy accumulations of pine needles, fallen leaves, and other flammable materials.
- Allow good access. Maintain a wide, uncluttered driveway with sufficient vertical and horizontal clearance to allow fire engines to enter and to turn around. Post your house number so it is visible from the street.
Beyond 100 feet from your house
- Remove "ladder fuels" to reduce crown fire danger. At distances over 100 feet from the house, you can lower the danger of crown fire without losing the forest's natural qualities. Do so by removing small trees and dead, dangling branches that could carry fire from the ground into the tree canopy. Be sure to remove thinned materials promptly.
- Protect big, old trees. Large pines provide important wildlife habitat, increase property values, and look great. The same actions that can protect your house will help to protect old trees: rake pine needles and woody debris at least two feet away from their trunks, and trim nearby small trees and shrubs that could carry fire into their crowns.
- Think clumps. You can leave some clumps of dense trees and shrubs standing for visual screening or for wildlife habitat, as long as they're separated from your house and from one another by defensible open space.
- Think openings. Openings with grasses and other low vegetation are important for many wildlife species, and can help stop a fire.
- Think wildlife habitat. Living trees with dead branches are particularly important for birds such as woodpeckers and bluebirds; so are scattered patches of denser vegetation.
- Clear out piles of downed logs and branches. Remove heavy accumulations of downed brush and logs. If you or firefighters burn piles to get rid of this material, make sure they are far enough from remaining trees to avoid scorching live crowns.
- Consider prescribed burning. Prescribed burns can help reduce dangerous fuel accumulations and stimulate grass and wildflower growth. Check with your fire department. Some conduct prescribed burns on private land.
- Mow grass and wildflowers low around shrubs, trees and buildings. This can interrupt a fire's fuel ladder.
- Plants nearest your home should be widely-spaced and low-growing. Consider low, native ground covers.
- Keep plants immediately around your house well-watered and well-maintained.
- Don't plant in large masses that can intensify fire. Use small, irregular clusters of plants.
- Use decorative rock, gravel and stepping stones for landscaping and paths. They can break up ground fuels.
- Use mulch to conserve water and inhibit weed growth. Rock mulch, cinders, or gravel can maintain soil moisture without increasing fire danger.
- Use native plants that tolerate local conditions.
- Choose fire-resistant plants. Many native southwestern plants resist fire. Some have succulent leaves that store moisture and don't burn readily.
- Use deciduous plants for privacy and wildlife habitat. Many deciduous trees have low resin content, are less flammable than evergreens, and attract birds and mammals.
- Leave extra space on slopes. Fire travels more quickly up slopes than on flat ground, so make sure tall, woody plants or groupings on slopes are spaced widely.
- Create rock piles rather than brush piles. Try providing cover for wildlife with rocks rather than with piled dead brush.
- Control invasive species. Such non-native plants as Dalmatian, toadflax, cheatgrass, and spotted knapweed threaten natural forest diversity. Some of these species readily carry fire.