Fall is a good time to reduce the risks of wildfires to cabins and homes as property owners in rural and wooded areas clear woodlots, cut firewood or remove downed or dying trees.
“If property owners reduce the likelihood that an ember finds a suitable fuel bed, they greatly reduce the likelihood that their home or cabin will ignite,” said Dan Carroll, northwest region Firewise specialist with the Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR offers guidance to homeowners to reduce the risks of wildfires to their homes and cabins through its Firewise program. The goal is to reduce losses from wildfire by identifying high fire risk areas for homeowners, and by mitigating hazards through planning, education and funding.
Carroll said there are four factors homeowners can control that affect whether a home will survive a wildfire. They are access, site, structure and burning practices.
Firefighters and emergency vehicles need to be able to find and access a home. Without good access and escape routes, firefighters will not endanger themselves to save a home.
To lessen chances of a structure catching fire, establish at least a 30-foot “defensible zone” around structures, within which flammables such as excess vegetation, firewood, and fallen leaves and needles have been removed. Further reducing potential fuels in the wooded area 100 feet around the home by thinning and pruning trees and reducing underbrush will reduce the intensity of an approaching wildfire.
Home modifications that further reduce wildfire risk include re-siding with brick, stone, stucco or steel, replacing shake roofing with class A shingles or steel, and enclosing foundations, decks and overhangs with steel, masonry or other flame-resistant sheeting.
Leaf and debris fires that get out of control are the number one cause of wildfires in Minnesota. Instead of burning leaves and debris, consider alternatives like composting. Recreational fires should be in a fire-safe pit or container and be completely extinguished before left unattended.
The DNR Firewise program is part of a national Firewise program initiated and funded in part by the USDA Forest Service. For more information, visit Firewise or contact a local forestry office near you.