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Mitigating Against Wildfire Is More Than Cutting Down Trees

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Chris Spears By Chris Spears
CBS4 Meteorologist
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BLACK FOREST, Colo. (CBS4) – When you think about mitigation to protect against wildfire, the first thing that might come to mind is cutting down trees.

But for those who live in areas prone to fire, how you landscape around your home can play an important role in keeping the structure safe.

“When we look at a home for mitigation, we also consider part of the structure of the home, meaning is it hardened against fire,” said Scott MacDonald, a lieutenant with the Black Forest Fire Department.

Hardening your home means checking everything from the chimney, which needs a well-made spark arrester, so you don’t start a fire, to the roof and siding. Textures like stucco can help protect against the flames.

And while these seem obvious, the vulnerability of a home can actually lie in the smallest of details.

“You notice the wood trim actually has a metal flashing on top of it, because anywhere there is an aspect change of horizontal to vertical, embers can collect there,” MacDonald said.

Small details like installing metal flashing on flat wood surfaces of your home could help protect against the flames of a wildfire. (credit: CBS)

Small details like installing metal flashing on flat wood surfaces of your home could help protect against the flames of a wildfire. (credit: CBS)

We all love the look and smell of mulch, but something as simple as a flower bed could put your home at higher risk to fire.

Placing a 5-foot border of rock between the house and flowerbeds can offer an added layer of protection for keeping flames at bay.

When planting, consider things like the type of vegetation and its placement. Low-level, well-spaced plants provide less fuel for a fire.

Keeping flowerbeds away from windows will keep the heat away if a fire breaks out. The intense heat could actually cause the glass to shatter, allowing flames a quick and easy way inside.

The placement and materials used in a flowerbed can make a big difference in your home's vulnerability to wildfire.

The placement and materials used in a flowerbed can make a big difference in your home’s vulnerability to wildfire.

We’ve said it before, but the attention is in the details.

Something as simple as a garden hose connected to your home, a vinyl drain extension sticking above ground, and even cushions on patio furniture can provide a link for fire to make contact with your home.

“They’re not in use so they’re put away, because cushions left on the furniture can collect embers, and now they’ve become fuel for the fire,” MacDonald said.

As if those living in fire zones don’t have enough to worry about, water supplies from wells could even be compromised during a wildfire.

In the Black Forest, many well heads were overgrown with vegetation and had plastic caps that melted when the 2013 fire roared through.

Now, many home owners have replaced those caps with metal ones, and keep the grass cut down, hoping to prevent contamination should a future fire breakout.

If you’re interested in learning more about landscaping a home to mitigate against wildfire, there are several resources available, including experts at the Denver Botanic Gardens and with the National Firewise Program.

CBS4 Weather Special

- Visit CBSDenver.com’s Living With Wildfire section.

Latest Wildfire Reports

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

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