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Protect your Home

Do You Have What it Takes? 100 feet of Defensible Space

A Recipe for Firewise Landscaping

Defensible Space
The development of defensible space is vital to the survival of a home when threatened by wildfire. A minimum fuel break of not less that 30 feet should be established and maintained around all structures by the selective removal or thinning of trees, brush, ground cover and dead plant material. The amount of additional clearance and distance required to ensure adequate fire protection depends on the fuel hazard classification. The following guidelines should be used to make your home defendable for firefighters if it becomes threatened:

• Moderate Hazard: Non-Pine Barrens, hardwood forest and northern hardwoods. Maintain a distance of 30 feet measured from the structure.
• High Hazard: Pine-Barrens forest including mature forms of pine oak and oak pine. Maintain a distance of 75 feet measured from the structure.
• Extreme Hazard: Immature pine oak or oak pine less than 20 feet tall, pine scrub oak and all classes of pitch pine lowland. Maintain a distance of 100 feet measured from the structure.

The following precautions are necessary to ensure a reasonable amount of protection for your rural or suburban forest home:

General Construction
The roof and exterior of the structure should be constructed of fire resistant or treated material (asphalt, roofing, tile, slate, asbestos cement shingles, sheet iron, aluminum or brick). Wood siding, shakes, and all projections (balconies, decks, roofs, gables, etc.) should be built of materials treated with UL-approved fire retardant chemicals. Cedar shakes should be avoided.

Protect the Roof
Clean gutters and roof surfaces of all accumulations of leaves and pine needles.

Remove Dead Limbs
Remove dead limbs from any trees adjacent to, or overhanging your home.

Prevent Chimney and Flue Fires
Inspect periodically and keep them free of soot. Have an approved spark arrestor or heavy wire screen with openings of no more than 1/2 inch on your fireplace. Remove tree branches within 10 feet of chimney.

Develop a Water Supply
A garden hose outlet is needed on the exterior of the building. One hundred feet of hose should be racked and connected to the outlet to protect all sides of the house and roof.

Protect from Flammables
Stack firewood 30 feet away from the house and other buildings. Keep flammables in safety cans. Screen openings in roof attics and floors to prevent accumulations of needles, leaves, or other debris.

Landscape Plantings
Landscape plantings should be non-resinous and well watered (no laurel, rhododendron or flammable evergreens). Remove leaf litter and dead plant debris promptly.

Green Lawns
A green lawn that is well watered and mowed is also a good fuel break. However, grass should not be allowed to grow tall or dry out because in that condition it is one of the fastest burning fuels.

Fire Permits
All campfires in forested areas require a permit from the Forest Fire Service. Visit our fire restrictions page for the latest news on campfire restrictions or contact your local Forest Firewarden or fire official for more information about fire safety in New Jersey's Outdoors.

Home Identification
House numbers should be visible from the roadway. If your home is not visible from the road, ensure that the driveway is clearly labeled with a sign showing the occupant's name and house number.

Access Road and Escape Route
Access roads to your property should be at least 16 feet wide to allow east entrance for fire trucks and passage of vehicles evacuating the area. The name of the road should be posted at intersections and the name of the occupants at the driveway entrance. Dead-end roads should terminate in a cul-de-sac with a minimum turnaround radius of 45 feet. Plan a safe escape route for you and your family before you are confronted with a wildfire!

Additional Considerations
1. Areas around barbeques should be cleared to mineral soil for a radius of 10 feet in all directions.
2. Have firefighting equipment on hand (100 feet of garden hose with nozzle, shovel, rake, bucket, and extension ladder).
3. Children should be trained in how to report a forest fire of any other emergency, and what they should do in an emergency situation.
4. Post phone numbers for local police, fire company, and firewarden in a conspicuous place.

 

Defend Against Wildfire
TO REPORT A WILDFIRE, CALL 911 OR CONTACT YOUR LOCAL FOREST FIREWARDEN.

DON'T
Allow leaves and twigs to accumulate on the roof.
Store flammable materials near the house foundation.
Allow branches of nearby trees to overhang the house.
Let trees and shrubbery crowd-in on the house.
Operate a woodstove or fireplace with an unsafe chimney.

DO
Clean roof surfaces by removing leaf and needle accumulations.
Stack firewood well clear of the house.
Prune lower branches of overhanging limbs on nearby trees.
Sstablish and maintain a minimum fire break of not less than 30 feet around all structures by the selective removal and thinning of trees, brush, and ground cover.
Install a spark arrestor on the fireplace chimney.

For More Information about Protecting your Home from Wildfire or
Forest Fire Management in New Jersey Contact your local Forest Firewarden

 

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Department of Environmental Protection
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Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: November 6, 2008

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