Create defensible spaces around your home to increase your chances of surviving a wildfire

In these extremely challenging weather conditions, State Fire Marshal Chuck Duffy urges residents to inspect and maintain the defensible space around their homes to dramatically increase the chances of surviving a disastrous wildfire.

By Lysandra Davis, Deputy State Fire Marshal.

In these extremely challenging weather conditions, State Fire Marshal Chuck Duffy is urging residents to inspect and maintain the defensible space around their homes.

Defensible space can dramatically increase your home’s chances of surviving a disastrous wildfire, and can be accomplished through careful planning and vegetation management.

“Wildfire dangers have increased statewide, making the need for fire safety a key concern. Flying embers can destroy homes up to a mile ahead of a wildfire,” cautions Duffy.

“For that reason, creating and maintaining a defensible space of 100 feet around your home is essential for limiting the amount of flammable vegetation and materials that may surround your home.”

Two zones make up the required 100 feet of defensible space:

Zone 1 - Extends 30 feet out from buildings, decks, and other structures.

  • Clearing this area requires the greatest reduction in flammable vegetation, and consists of removing dead plants, grasses, weeds, and any pine needles or dry leaves that may be accumulated on your home’s roof, rain gutters, or around and under decks.
  • Remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs that are located near windows.
  • Keep trees trimmed and remove any dead tree limbs that hang over your roof, keeping branches 10 feet away from your chimney.
  • Relocate exposed woodpiles outside of Zone 1 unless they are covered in a fire resistant material.
  • And lastly, create a separation between trees, shrubs, and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, swing sets, etc.

Zone 2—Extends 30 to 100 feet from buildings and other structures.

  • The fuel reduction zone in the remaining 70 feet (or to property line) will depend on the steepness of your property and the vegetation.
  • Create horizontal and vertical spacing between plants to prevent fire from spreading.
  • Large trees do not have to be cut down or removed as long as the plants beneath them are removed, eliminating a vertical “fire ladder.”
  • An important reminder when clearing vegetation, use care when operating equipment such as lawnmowers, as one small spark may start a fire; a string trimmer is the safest choice.

To learn more about the Firewise principles included in this article, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise website at or the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Ready, Set, Go! website at

The Office of the State Fire Marshal is a Bureau of the Washington State Patrol, providing fire and life safety services to the citizens of Washington State including inspections of state licensed facilities, plan review of school construction projects, licensing of fire sprinkler contractors and pyrotechnic operators, training Washington State’s firefighters, and collecting emergency response data.


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