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With the wet weather in the northeast part of Wyoming has experienced, the wildfires in Colorado and dry condition in southern Wyoming we need to be proactive to help mitigate these types of disasters.
The first defense against wildfire is to create a fire-safe landscape around your home. This can be achieved by removing flammable vegetation and replacing it with fire-resistant plants, spacing the plants in the yard, and clearing away dead leaves on the roof and dry brush around the home.
If a fire-safe landscape can be created for at least 30 feet around a house and out to 100 feet or more in some areas, the chances of a wildfire spreading onto the property and burning through to the home will be reduced. This is the basis for creating a “defensible space” an area that will help protect the home and provide a safety zone for firefighters battling the flames.
Many of the plants that grow naturally in the area are highly flammable during the summer and can actually “fuel” a wildfire, causing it to spread rapidly through a neighborhood. Removing flammable native vegetation and replacing it with lowgrowing, fire-resistant plants are one of the easiest and most effective ways to create a defensible space.
Select landscape vegetation based on fire resistance and ease of maintenance as well as visual enhancement. In general, fire-resistive plants grow close to the ground, have a low sap or resin content, are drought tolerant, are easily maintained and pruned, and grow without accumulating dead branches, needles or leaves.
To maintain their fire resistance, plants need to be watered and pruned to remove dead leaves and branches. Routine care and maintenance will provide an attractive defensible space against wildfire. Contact a local nursery for selections appropriate to a given area.
Vary the height of landscape plants and give them adequate spacing. The taller the plants are, the wider apart they should be spaced. Remove dead limbs and limbs overhanging the roof and any limb within 10 feet of a chimney. Work with neighbors to clear common areas between houses and prune areas of heavy vegetation that are a threat to both.
If there is a heavily wooded area on the property, remove some of the trees to decrease the fire hazard and improve growing conditions. Also, remove dead, weak or diseased trees and trees with an obvious lean, leaving a healthy mixture of older and younger trees. Stack firewood and scrap wood piles at least 30 feet from any structure and clear away any flammable vegetation within 10 feet of these wood piles. Many homes have survived as a fire moved past only to burn later from a wood pile that ignited after the firefighters moved on to protect other homes.
Clear pine needles, leaves and other debris from the roof of the house and from any other buildings on the property. Check and clean the roof and gutters several times during the spring, summer and fall to remove debris that can easily ignite from a spark. With last year’s dry conditions and the prediction of another dry summer, it is important to take precautions to prevent wildfire damage to homes.
Some possible grass selections include Blue Grama a warm season grass, or a native cool season grass such as Sodar Streambank Wheatgrass. Deciduous trees and shrubs typically are not as flammable as evergreens, so consider more of these closer to structures. For more information, go to www.uwyo.edu/barnbackyard/ resources/wildfire.html . Also each extension office has a nice publication on wildfire mitigation.
Trade or brand names used in this publication are used only for the purpose of educational information. The information given herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended, and no endorsement information of products by the University of Wyoming Extension is implied. Nor does it imply approval of products to the exclusion of others, which may also be suitable. The University of Wyoming is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.
Scott Hininger is with the Sheridan County Extention office.