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Wildfire: The Home Ignition Zone

Your Home Can Survive a Wildfire


(Downloadable resources are available at the bottom of this article.)

Properly preparing your home and community doesn’t guarantee that you will not incur fire damage in the event of a wildfire, but it does reduce the risks. Listed below are a few preventative measures that cost very little and reduce fire dangers by a great deal. The information is from the BC Home Owner’s FireSmart Manual (click the link to download the full manual.

Here are three areas where you can apply FireSmart standards to protect or reduce the damage to your property should a wildfire strike.


Site Preparation: FireSmart Maintenance Plan “First Priority” Zone

Interface Priority ZonesAny kind of vegetation is combustible.

Mature trees, shrubs, grass, even your woodpile, are all potential fuels and can easily ignite (increasing the chance of building ignition and loss.) Managing the space around your house and buildings is of prime importance.

The diagram on the right shows the Priority Zones surrounding an interface building or group of buildings.

Do you have a cleared zone around your house and buildings?

The first 10 metres of space around your home is your “First Priority”. It’s the most critical area to consider for fire protection.

A good fuel free space gives firefighters a chance to save your home from an advancing fire. A home without a good fuel free space around it can make firefighting difficult, if not impossible.

What to do?

Remove any shrubs, trees, deadfall or woodpiles from this area and keep your grass mowed and watered.


Extending Your FireSmart Maintenance Plan to the “Second Priority” Zone

From 10 to 30 metres out from your home is the second priority zone. In this zone, you need to reduce fuels by thinning and pruning so that combustion cannot be supported.

What to do?

  • Remove trees and debris that can spread fire upwards to become a fast spreading crown fire. Space trees so that the crowns of individual trees are 3 – 6 metres apart.

Low Stand Density

  • Remove or reduce the number of evergreen trees in the area. Evergreens such as pine and spruce are much more combustible than deciduous trees. In fact, aspen, poplar and birch all have very low flammability rates.
  • Remove deadfall, thick shrubbery and mature trees that might provide the opportunity for a ground fire to climb up into the forest canopy. Once a fire crowns out, it’s virtually unstoppable.

Because fires spread more easily up hill, it’s important to extend the second priority zone precautions further on downhill slopes and on windward exposures.


Extend your FireSmart maintenance plan to the “Third Priority” zone

Third Priority ZoneThe third priority zone begins 30 metres from any structure and extends to a distance of 100 metres and beyond. The idea here is not to remove all combustible fuels from the forest, but to thin the area so fires will be of low intensity and more easily extinguished.

What to do?

  • Thin or reduce shrubs and trees that make up the under story.
  • Retain fire resistant deciduous trees, space trees (3 – 6 metres between crowns) to reduce the potential for a crowning fire.

These are simple economical steps anyone can take to create a FireSmart home, community or business site. For these actions to be effective, they must be maintained.

For other preventative measures that require planning and a long-term commitment to change click here to download the BC Home Owner’s FireSmart ManualThe BC Home Owners FireSmart Manual is also available from the BC Government by clicking here.


Other Fire Safety & Fire Prevention Resources

My Forest Home

Firewise Guide to Landscape & Construction

Wildland Fire Safety (One Page)