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Categorized | Outdoors

Get your yard ready for wildfire season

Get your yard ready for wildfire season
Pruning tree limbs helps keep grass fires from climbing up into trees and spreading to your home.

As you enjoy the first rays of spring sunshine and begin to dust off garden tools, take a fresh look at your yard through the eyes of a firefighter. Whether you live in a forest or in a neighborhood, a few key actions can reduce wildfire risk to your home. 

 Whether you live in a forest or in a neighborhood, a few key actions can reduce wildfire risk to your home.

“The first thing a firefighter will look for is how easy it is to find a home in a wildfire situation,” said DNR fire prevention specialist Paul Rogers. “Stand at the end of your driveway and check to see that your house numbers are clearly visible. They should be mounted on a reflective background so they can be seen in dark or smoky conditions.”

While standing in that spot, take a look at the driveway itself. To accommodate a fire engine, driveways should be 15 feet across, with overhanging branches trimmed 15 feet up for clearance.

“Trees should be pruned of limbs 6 feet from the ground or higher,” said Rogers. “This helps prevent grass fires from climbing up into the canopy. Canopy fires are dangerous because airborne embers and sparks from the crowns of trees can land on the roofs of homes and ignite.”

Tree limbs should not hang over the roof of a home. If trees are packed tightly together and branches are touching, consider thinning them out to put distance between them.

Around a home is a critical 30-foot zone where landscaping influences fire risk. When pruning and raking, dispose of brush beyond this zone to prevent buildup of flammable fuels.

Closer to the house, keep an eye out for potential fuel sources. Never stack firewood or tires directly next to your home. If ignited, these fuel piles burn hot and fast and can be a danger to your house. Gutters should be cleaned out in the fall and spring. Most exterior home fires are started by embers floating on the wind, and a gutter full of dry leaves and pine needles can easily ignite. 

Long-term investments in fire safety can include removing conifer trees in the 30-foot zone, replacing an older roof with a metal one and separating areas of the yard with hard paths to act as fuel breaks. A fuel break is an area that will not burn, such as a sidewalk or driveway, which can bring a scorching ground fire to a halt. These actions are highly recommended in fire-prone areas such as jack pine forests.

Find more fire prevention information at Michigan.gov/PreventWildfires or the National Fire Protection Association.

Questions? Contact Paul Rogers at 616-260-8406.

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