What is fuels reduction, and how can it save your home this fire season?

The major headline in today’s Bonner County Daily Bee, “Area fire crews already battling wildfires,” is a sobering reminder to regional property owners that it’s never too early in the season to focus on fuels reduction (or forest thinning) and fire preparedness. The article details how local fire districts have been responding to incidents in the region, some caused by out-of-control burn piles and all exacerbated by our lack of snow this winter. With no snow on the ground, fuels (i.e., grasses, brush and trees) dry out faster, even during the winter months when cold air saps the moisture out of everything (think of how your skin feels on cold, dry winter days).

fuels reduction

A healthy forest makes for a healthy burn. A healthy burn will likely leave your home safe.

So, what is a land owner to do? How can you protect your home in the face of a potentially disastrous fire season? Fuels reduction is the key. Trees must be thinned, concentrating on increasing space between canopies. Down below, ladder fuels (vegetation that allows a fire to climb from the forest floor to the canopy) must be reduced, including branches, brush and young trees. Surface fuels (dead and downed timber and limbs) should be removed as well as they can harbor and build heat during a fire. As an additional safety measure, residents can clear a swath of trees through the forest 5 to 15 feet wide that acts as a fuels break. This gives firefighters an advantage when trying to save homes. Basically, the idea is to manage fuels so that when a fire does come, it acts as a healthy ground fire that cleans up the forest while sparing large trees and structures.

At Sand Creek Tree Service, we’re not just arborists; we’re also wildland firefighters. We know how to keep forests healthy and safe, and we’d rather do that than battle flames at anyone’s doorstep.

In 2006, Tyler’s job on a fire in Alaska was to quickly assess homes that were in the path of the blaze. Defensible homes received a single pink flag on the driveway, alerting firefighters that the effort of saving the structures was worth it. Meanwhile, homes with no fuels reduction received three flags, telling firefighters that trying to save the buildings was too dangerous. Homes were lost that day due to thick fuels.

The lesson is to make sure your home is defensible. And not just your home, but access to your home as well. If you have a long driveway with thick trees, reduce fuels on each side of the road 5 to 20 feet back depending on the fuel types. That means thinning some trees, removing saplings, and limbing up larger trees. Another thing to consider is whether there is enough room to get a fire engine down your driveway and turned around.

Sand Creek Tree Service can help with all fuels reduction work. We know what a defensible home looks like; and sadly, we’re familiar with properties that don’t stand a chance. Call us today for an assessment of your property.