science environment

How To Prepare Your Home For Wildfire

By Joseph Winters (OPB/EarthFix)
Aug. 16, 2018 12:30 a.m.
A burned cabin that was destroyed in Washington's 2014 Carlton Complex wildfire.

A burned cabin that was destroyed in Washington's 2014 Carlton Complex wildfire.

Creative Commons licensed by Adam Cohn

Homes built on the edge of forests and grasslands are especially vulnerable to wildfires. Development in this zone — known as the wildland-urban interface — is the fastest-growing land use type in the lower 48 states.


The U.S. has more than 46 million homes in this wildfire danger zone and more people moving in right when climate change is making for longer, hotter and drier wildfire seasons.

Here are a few steps you can take to protect your home from wildfire.

Home Preparation:

Roof: Replace with Class A, noncombustible materials. Prevent debris buildup by avoiding roofs with ridges and valleys, and use bird stops to seal open edges.

Gutters: Keep free of debris.


Crawlspace and attic: Install 1/8-inch metal mesh screens to keep embers out.

Windows: Replace single-pane windows with double-paned, tempered glass windows.

Chimney: Install a spark arrestor with 1/2-inch mesh to prevent embers from escaping.

Fence: Replace wood with noncombustible materials. Ensure that any part of a fence touching the home is noncombustible.

Create A Defensible Space:

Zone 1: 0-30 feet from your home. Cover the ground with noncombustible materials like gravel or concrete. Remove overhanging branches. Do not store firewood here.

Zone 2: 30-100 feet from your home. Use vegetation "islands" to break up continuous fuel sources. Limit debris and keep the grass under 8 inches.

Zone 3: 100-200 feet from your home. Maintain a minimum of 10 feet between treetops. Limit debris and remove ladder fuels — fuels that allow fires to climb vertically into the upper canopy.

In addition, write and memorize an emergency plan for your family. You may also want to pack an emergency kit with essentials like water, food and first aid materials. Find a suggested list of items on