The following information was obtained from the How to Make your forest home and property Fire Smart pamphlet provided by the BC Ministry of Forests.

Living in a forest environment

The desire to get away from the pressures of heavily populated areas has resulted in an increase in subdivisions and developments in forested areas.

Each year there are more than 2,000 forest fires in BC. Although most are far from populated areas, many threaten or actually burn homes, summer cottages and cabins.

Forest homesite developments often lack building restrictions, provisions for fire protection, or roads suitable for the movement of heavy fire-fighting equipment.

The BC Forest Service is concerned about residents living in forested areas and will assist in developing fire-protection plans.

This pamphlet provides guidance for developers, planners, builders and owners of homes in forested areas.

Fire control facilities

Be aware of fire-fighting capabilities available in your area. Everyone shares the responsibility of preserving life and property by planning for fire protection.

Homes within forested areas are usually beyond the community fire department’s operating limit. (Fortunately, Steelhead is not!) The lack of rural fire-protection services means that you need to be prepared.

The Forest Service has personnel who are trained, equipped, and funded specifically for the protection of forests and rangelands. They are not equipped or trained to fight structural fires.

The primary means to control forest-fires is to eliminate flammable material. Structural fire-fighting requires a quick response and large volumes of water delivered at a high pressure. Forest Service fire suppression staff are only available during the summer and operate on an attack time which is effective for fighting forest fires, but not structural fires.

Forest Service staff will take action to prevent the loss of life or the spread of fire to structures or forests.

Your building lot

Before you buy:

  • Familiarize yourself with fire-protection services available in the area.
  • Contact the nearest Forest Service office for the forest-fire history of the area. Forest Service personnel can appraise fire problems and determine the adequacy of water and road systems.

Surround your home with defensible space

During a forest fire – vegetation is fuel. To prevent structure loss, homeowners must clear back and thin out trees and brush.

Thin and prune trees and brush to slow fire’s rate of spread.

  • Thin trees to three metres (10 feet) of separation. Remove dead or highly flammable trees first.
  • On level ground, thin stands of trees within two tree heightens (minimum 30 metres – 100 feet) of structure.
  • On sloped ground, thin downslope stands of trees to a greater distance of the structure. On steeper slopes, thin trees further downslope from the structure.
  • Remove trees and brush growing under taller trees.
  • Prune trees – remove branches within 2.5 metres (8 feet) off the ground.
  • Regularly perform a general cleanup. Remove and dispose of logs, needles, twigs and shrubs that encourage fire to spread on the ground. Keep firewood and debris piles at least 10 metres (30 feet) away – never downslope – from a structure.

Establish ‘Priority Zones’ around your home

Clear trees and brush to the recommended distances between structures and the surrounding forest.

A – Priority Zone 1: The area closest to the structure, within 10 metres (30 feet), is critical and should have most of the trees and brush removed.

B – Priority Zone 2: The area up to 30 metres (100 feet) away from the structure should have the trees and brush thinned out.

Build or remodel to fire safe your house

During a forest fire, your house is fuel. To prevent structure loss, homeowners should use fire resistant building materials and construction techniques.

Roof

Untreated wooden shake roofs are the number one cause of home losses to wildland fires.

  • Use fire resistant roofing material like metal roofing, clay or concrete tile, asphalt shingle.
  • Clear over-hanging branches, needles and other combustible debris from roof.

Balconies, decks and eaves

Overhang construction traps heat and embers, and will increase the risk of structure loss.

  • Construct deck supports of non-combustible materials or encase them – heavy timbers are more fire resistant.
  • Enclose the under side of overhangs with non-flammable material or plywood sheathing.
  • Construct balcony and deck surfaces of non-combustible or fire retardant materials.
  • Remove accumulated debris from below slotted deck surfaces.

Windows and vents

  • Ensure windows do not face trees or brush within 10 metres (30 feet).
  • Use double paned windows with metal blinds. Avoid flammable curtains.
  • Ensure vent openings are screened with six millimetres (1/4 inch) mesh.
  • Have fire shutters or screens that can be rapidly placed over windows or vent openings if fire approaches.
  • Maintain access to attics, crawl spaces and under deck areas so that spot fires can be detected and extinguished following passage of the fire.

Electric Utilities

  • Maintain a three metre (10 foot) clearance between branches and powerlines. Contact the utility company to remove dead or diseased standing timber within a tree length of the powerline.
  • Clear combustible material within three metres (10 feet) of propane and natural gas tanks. Locate the tanks at least ten metres (30 feet) away from the structure.

Chimney and stovepipe

  • Cover chimney outlets with wire screen – mesh no larger than 12 millimetres (1/2 inch).
  • Clear branches within three metres (10 feet).
  • Ensure that chimney outlet clearances are maintained a minimum of .6 metres (24 inches) from roof peak and a minimum of .9 metres (35 inches) from the roof directly below.

Trailers and mobile homes

  • Skirt in areas under the trailer or mobile home with non-combustible materials.
  • Use adequate tie-downs if the installation is to be mobile or semi-permanent.

Identify and make your home address highly visible

  • Ensure all streets and roads are marked with highly visible, non-combustible signs.
  • Number each home. If homes are setback from the roadway or more than one home is accessed by a single driveway, post numbers at the end of the driveway.

 

Fire Centres

For more information on the B.C. Forest Service Protection Program, contact the office nearest you:

B.C. Forest Service Protection Branch
2957 Jutland Rd, 2nd floor
PO Box 9502, Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9C1
(250) 387-5965
Kamloops Fire Centre
4000 Airport Road
Kamloops, B.C. V2B 7X2
(250) 554-5500
Coastal Fire Centre
665 Allsbrook Road
Parkville, B.C. V9P 2T3
(250) 951-4222
Southeast Fire Centre
208 Hughes Road
Castlegar, B.C., V1N 4M5
(250) 365-4040
Northwest Fire Centre
Bag 5000 Airport Road
Smithers, B.C. V0J 2N0
(250) 847-6600
Cariboo Fire Centre
Site 1, Comp 21, RR#4
Williams Lake, B.C., V2G 4M8
(250) 989-2600
Prince George Fire Centre
1101 4th Ave
Prince George, B.C., V2L 3H9
(250) 565-6124