The area closest to your home should be non-combustible. Improvements in this area have the greatest impact in reducing your home’s vulnerability to wildfire.
Some of the work in this zone can be done immediately and as part of your routine maintenance. Others can be implemented when considering renovations.
Zone 1a: House and attachments
Flammable Debris: Clear branches, leaves, and other debris from your roof, under your deck, and close to the house. Wherever the wind blows leaves is where wind will also carry embers during a fire.
Storage: Do not store lumber, firewood, fuel, or flammables within 1.5 metres of the house or under unscreened decks.
Landscaping: Avoid planting trees, especially conifers such as juniper, cedar, spruce, pine, and decorative grass within 1.5 metres of your house. Mulch is also flammable
Roof: Clear branches and leaves from your roof, especially in inside corners where debris and embers can accumulate.
For the future: Metal, asphalt, clay, and rubber composite tiles are better options than wood shakes. Use these materials when replacing your roof.
Decks: Sparks and embers can collect under your deck. Remove debris regularly and do not store lumber underneath. Enclose your deck with a skirting, or sheath the joists underneath. Consider fire-resistant materials and treatments when contemplating renovations to your deck surface.
Fences and boardwalks: If made of wood, these elements can create a line of fire directly to your home. Install a metal gate or a cement walkway where the wood meets the house to provide a fire separation.
Chimney: Install a spark arrestor or chimney cap to prevent embers from escaping and starting a house fire or wildfire.
Eaves troughs: Keep your eaves troughs clear of leaves and twigs. Consider screening them to prevent debris accumulation.
Eaves and vents: Open eaves and vents should be covered with a 3 millimetre, non-combustible screening to prevent embers from entering the attic.
Siding: Stucco, metal, brick, and cement board are most resistant to fire. Consider these materials when planning an exterior renovation. Logs are somewhat more resistant, but still flammable. Wood and vinyl siding are the most vulnerable.
At minimum, a clearance of 15 centimetres of non-combustible siding should exist between the ground and wood or vinyl siding.
Windows: Tempered, multi-paned windows are most fire resistant. Single-paned windows provide little protection from fire, and are inefficient.
Doors: Doors to the house and garage should be fire-rated and have a good seal.
Zone 1b: The yard
In addition to creating a 1.5 metre non-combustible zone around your home, maintenance and improvements in your yard will help prevent the spread of fire into neighbourhoods, and reduce your home’s vulnerability to fire.
Plants and trees create beauty and natural habitat in your yard. Characteristics of fire-resistant landscaping are:
- A low density of plants
- Grass is regularly mown and watered
- Dry leaves are regularly removed
Fire-resistant plants don’t easily ignite from flames. They will still be damaged and burn, but they are less likely to ignite from embers. Look for the following characteristics:
- Leaves are moist and supple
- There is little dead wood and dry leaves
- Sap is thin and clear, with little smell
Highly flammable plants tend to have:
- Fine, dry or dead material in the plant
- Resin or oil in the leaves or stems
- Gummy, resinous, aromatic sap
- Loose or papery bark
Bark mulch, pine needles, and various mulch derived from organic materials are highly flammable and could ignite from a spark. However, they are also an important tool in retaining water in gardens. Some research has shown that rubber and pine needle mulch is the most flammable, while wood chips are marginally less flammable. Gravel and decorative rocks are the most fire-resistant.
Xeriscaping is a method of gardening that maximizes water retention. Because dry gardens are less fire-resistant, using xeriscaping principles increases your chances of having a moist, healthy garden even during dry, fire prone periods.
Coniferous (needle)trees are more flammable. Deciduous trees are more fire resistant. Choose leafy trees and bushes without decorative berries to be both fire-resistant and bear-smart, such as:
Avoid evergreens and clean up leaves and twigs throughout your yard regularly. Remove dead limbs regularly.
Maintenance in Zone 1
Remove leaves and other plant debris promptly throughout the fire season
Store firewood away from your home. If you build a shelter, use fire-resistant roofing, such as metal or asphalt.
Use burn barrels responsibly away at least 3 metres away from flammable materials. Ensure it is ventilated. Six millimetre wire mesh covering is recommended.