Wildfire Relief Tips: Basics of Defensible Space & the “Home Ignition Zone”


People suffering watery eyes, coughing, and other symptoms triggered by wildfire smoke often feel immediate support after taking Chinese herbs - like the formula found in Rootology's Breathe Free - that can promote nasal, sinus and respiratory health.

Rootology is here to share the concept of the home ignition zone that was developed by USDA Forest Service fire scientist Jack Cohen in the late 1990s, following some breakthrough experimental research into how homes ignite due to the effects of radiant heat.

For more than 15 years, NFPA’s wildfire safety recommendations have been shaped by this fire science and because of it, is able to provide actionable guidance for homeowners to help them prepare homes/home landscapes to resist wildfire.

Property owners need to address the "little things" first: NFPA advises property owners to start with the house and work their way out. Having a nonflammable roof covering and assembly adds an enormous safety measure. Keeping roofs and gutters clean and clear of leaves or needles is critical to minimizing ignition from embers. Flammable attachments (e.g., untreated wooden decks) are very vulnerable to ignition and can carry fire to the main structure. Keep flat surfaces clear of debris. Clean out any leaves, needles or stored material that could burn from under decks or porches. During this high fire danger season, remove large potential heat sources such as piles of firewood, spare building materials, vehicles - anything that could catch embers or ignite by flames in the grass needs to be as far away from dwellings as possible. 

Remove fuel sources close to the house: The perimeter of the home and attachments out to about 5 feet is vulnerable if there is anything there - organic mulch, woody shrubs and plants, juniper bushes - that could ignite and thus allow flames to touch the house. Wind-driven fire will create a blizzard of embers that will pile up in corners where you might normally find accumulations of leaves or needles around your home. These corners, nooks and crannies should be clear of any flammables. If there are any limbs or branches overhanging the roof, or any branches close to/touching the house, trim back to at least 10 feet from the house. Keep grass mowed low and well watered if possible.

Embers and small flames are major culprits: Radiant heat exposure is not only mitigated in the home ignition zone, but exposure to embers and surface fire as well. In fact, all the research around home destruction and home survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames as the main way that the majority of homes ignite in wildfires. For that reason, NFPA recommends methods to prepare homes to withstand ember attack and minimize the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the home or any attachments (fences, decks, porches) as the first place for homeowners to start working to prepare their properties.

For more tips, programs and resources on wildfire preparedness and safety, visit NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division webpage for more information.