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Protecting Your Property From Wildfire

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Last update: February 2018

The likelihood of wildfires occurring increases during late fall and winter months due to dormant grass, fallen tree leaves and periods of high winds and low humidities. The potential of wildfires occurring increases when relative humidity drops below 20 percent and wind blows over 20 miles per hour.

With more people moving to the country, the interaction between wildfire and people is becoming more frequent. Every year, numerous structures and millions of dollars of personal property are lost to wildfire. Many of those losses could be avoided if certain precautions were used.

overgrown shrubs

Landowners can take steps to prevent losses caused by wildfire.

By using fire-resistant exterior building materials and furnishings as well as appropriate landscape plants and features, a landowner can greatly decrease the potential of a catastrophic loss.

Fuel (grass and tree leaves) management is also an important practice that a landowner can implement to reduce the probability of suffering losses. 

Tips for Reducing Effects of Wildfires on Homes and Outbuildings: 

  • Remove all eastern red cedars within 50 yards of any structures.
  • Maintain at least 30 feet between evergreens that are not removed.
  • Keep bottom portions of shrubs and trees trimmed 5 to 10 feet from the ground.
  • Keep grass mowed around structures.
  • Do not have large shrubbery next to a structure.
  • Use a metal or clay roof, or asphalt shingles, instead of wooden shingles.
  • Construct buildings of fire resistant exterior materials and use fire resistant outdoor furniture.
  • Keep leaves from collecting near structures and under decks.
  • Do not stack firewood or other flammable materials within 30 feet of any structures.
  • Keep gutters free of leaves.
  • Remove limbs that hang over structures.
  • Create fireguards using driveways, sidewalks, flowerbeds and patios.
  • Use low growing shrubs and other vegetation adjacent to structures.
  • Maintain irrigated green grass around structures during summer months if grass is present.
  • Mow road frontages frequently.
  • Consider xeriscaping around structures.

flammable materialExample of flammable material stored too close to a structure

For more information about protecting your property from wildfires, go to www.southernfireexchange.org and www.firewise.org. These websites provide more practices a landowner can use to guard against wildfires.

Steven Smith serves as a wildlife and fisheries consultant at Noble Research Institute, where he has worked since 2006. He received a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries ecology and a master’s degree in rangeland management and ecology from Oklahoma State University. He grew up on small family cow/calf operation in central Oklahoma. His areas of interest are prescribed fire, especially growing season fires, and managing plant communities for livestock forage and wildlife habitat.