Defensible Space Key During Wildfire Threats
By S.E. Slack
Wildfires occur in Florida throughout the year. Most don’t threaten towns or entire neighborhoods, but when they do, natural fuels located 30 feet or closer to a structure can send a wildfire racing toward one home over another. The Florida Forest Service states that maintaining a safety zone around a home can increase the likelihood that a home will survive even the fiercest wildfire.
It only takes a spark to consume thousands of acres and destroy hundreds of homes, as residents near Bluff City and other major cities can attest. State fire officials say homes that are surrounded by a defensible space of at least 30 feet are more likely to be saved when flames are bearing down.
That’s because the space breaks up the continuity of the vegetation around the structure, gives firefighters room to work safely and defend the structure and helps stop a structure fire from spreading to other properties.
The Florida Forest Service says that plants such as saw palmetto, wax myrtle, yaupon, red cedar and cypress, as well as young pine trees should be placed at least 50 feet from any structures on a property. Less flammable trees and shrubs, such as oak, pecan and maple trees or agave and red yucca plants, can be placed closer to the home as long as they are kept at least 10-15 feet away from one another.
Firewood and propane gas tanks should be stored at least 50 feet from the home. Use lava stone or coarse gravel instead of bark or wood chips as landscaping materials within five feet of the home.
Fire is a natural part of the Florida ecosystem, according to experts. But proactive homeowners who keep a solid line of defense around their property stand a better chance of returning to an intact home after a wildfire than most.