As fall fades and we begin to welcome winter, many of us are likely focusing on the holidays, family and eating a lot of great food. Understandably, outdoor chores can take a backseat to other priorities, especially as the cold and rain settle in. But did you know that often this means missing out on great opportunities to prepare your home and property for the summer wildfire season?
Yes, you read right, even though summer is still a very recent memory, there are many things homeowners and landowners can do now to become more fire safe this coming summer. Winter is often the best time to thin, prune and trim back vegetation, and dispose of woody material and vegetation. Even though summer currently feels like a distant possibility, now is the time to act to make sure your home and property are as prepared as possible for the 2018 summer wildfire season.
Here are some tips on how to care for your trees and shrubs to prepare them for wildfire:
Thin out overly dense patches of trees and shrubs, and retain larger, healthier trees. Healthy, well-spaced trees are more fire-resistant and less susceptible to insects and disease.Remove flammable brush and weeds from your home’s defensible space in winter to early spring. These can act as ladder fuels — vegetation that allows a fire to climb from the ground up into the tree canopy.Prune limbs of mature trees up at least 10 feet above the ground. For smaller trees, only remove a third of the live branches at any one time. As the tree gets older and taller, it can be pruned again, raising its crown. Fall and winter are the best times to prune conifer trees; hardwoods are best pruned in spring. Be careful not to damage the branch collar.
Additionally, consider the following items to improve the condition right around your home.
Tasks within 30 feet of your home:
Are any tree limbs overhanging or touching your home’s roof, deck, porches or outbuildings? Prune them back at least 10 feet from these structures.Have branches on mature trees lengthened so they droop closer to the ground or into smaller plants? Prune limbs on mature trees so that branches are at least 10 feet above the ground.Have tree branches grown out over the top of your driveway? For safe access and egress, always maintain at least 13.5 feet of vertical clearance across the entire width of your driveway.Are ladder fuels encroaching on the driveway from the sides? Remove small trees, lower limbs of larger trees and brush to maintain at least 10 feet of horizontal clearance from the edge of the driveway.Is your address sign visible? Clear away any vegetation to make your reflective sign clearly visible from all directions both day and night, winter or summer.
Tasks within 200 feet of your home:
Has previously cut brush grown back into your defensible space? Time to cut it back.Have trees or shrubs grown near phone lines, power lines or electric fences? Check and prune them back annually. Be safe—call your utility company first.Have young trees or shrubs grown into your defensible space since the last time it was cleared? Create separation between trees and shrubs in your defensible space zone, and remove smaller trees and shrubs growing underneath larger trees.
Contact the Douglas County Extension Service at 541-672-4461, or the Douglas Forest Protective Association at 541-672-6507 for more information on how to make your home and property more fire safe.