Prepare home for fire season

Donna Gray
Post Independent Staff
Post Independent File Photo

A moist spring has made for lush growth throughout the valley. Wildflowers are in abundance, and the grass is high. While it might look pleasing to the eye, all that green vegetation is a worry to firefighters.

High winds and low relative humidity dry out grasses and shrubs, making for high fire danger.

To be prepared for wildland fire, homeowners need to construct a defensible space around their homes, both for their own safety and that of firefighters who may be called in to save that home, said Ron Biggers, fire protection analyst with the Glenwood Springs Fire Department.

Biggers helps residents plan for defensible space around their homes. The department also offers matching grants in which it will pay for 50 percent of the cost of constructing defensible space around a home. Up to $1,200 is available for homes on small lots and $8.75 per acre on larger properties, he said.

Key to defensible space is thinning trees and brush around the home and keeping grass cut, Biggers said.

“You can do it in stages,” he said. “You don’t have to clearcut.”

The rule of thumb is a 50-foot swath around a home that is on flat ground. Homes on hillsides should be cleared to 100 feet because fire races uphill, Biggers said. For example, oakbrush, which is common in this area, can be cut in clumps, the way it grows naturally, with about 10 feet between groups, Biggers said. Less flammable trees like aspen can be planted rather than evergreens such as pinon and juniper.

All native species, such as pinon, juniper and sage, are designed to burn, he said. “It’s how nature culls it out.”

Lower limbs of trees should be cut eight to 10 feet up the tree trunk, “so fire can’t get into the crowns.”

Fire, Biggers explained, can come close to a house through the grass, and it should be kept mowed to six inches. Defensible space around a home helps keep fire on the ground.

It also gives firefighters a place from which to defend a home from the flames. “With decent egress around the property they feel they could defend it,” he said. “If there’s oakbrush up to the eves, they say, why should we risk our lives.”

Homeowners should also be aware of where embers can land. Leaves can collect under decks that are close to the ground, and embers can get trapped and ignite that dry fuel. Woodpiles should not be stacked against a house.

For more information about defensible space, call Ron Biggers at 384-6433, or go to

Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510

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