Firewise Living in Maryland
The increasing threat of wildfires to life and property and the continual spread of the population and the wildland urban interface areas throughout the state puts a strain on the local and state resources to suppress wildland fires. The suppression efforts in the wildland urban interface are complicated by the need for the simultaneous suppression of both structural fire and wildfire. The suppression agencies are actively involved in fire prevention efforts with communities but are not solely responsible. It is important for the homeowner to recognize and understand that they are living in a fire prone environment.
Homeowners have a responsibility to prepare for a wildfire before it occurs in order to minimize and/or prevent losses when a fire occurs. Creating defensible space – an area of at least 30 feet surrounding the home and outbuildings – serves as a safety zone around the structures. Within this area, the vegetation should be controlled and the area free of dead debris, leaves, and flammable vegetation in order to prevent a wildfire from traveling from the forest to the structure. Maintaining a green space landscaped with fire resistant vegetation improves the safety zone. The roof, exterior, and attachments to the structures (decks, porches or fences) should all be constructed with fire-resistant materials. Homeowners should also plan for and maintain the access routes to the home for emergency vehicles. In addition, each household should prepare a disaster plan. The wildland urban interface poses a tremendous challenge for the structural and wildland fire communities to work with and educate homeowners, homeowner associations, and community planners.
Firewise Living “Top Ten” List:
- Address – Make sure your address is clearly visible from the road, in both directions of travel, even at night. Use at least 4-inch tall reflective numerals.
- Yard – Maintain a green, mowed lawn at least 30 feet wide around all sides of your home.
- Maintenance – Keep your roof, gutters, and yard free of dead leaves, twigs, and other flammable debris.
- Access – Clear the vegetation from around your driveway to a width of at least 12 feet and a height of 14 feet, to allow emergency vehicles to reach your home.
- Decks– Remove leaves, lumber, and other flammable debris from under and around decks. For low decks, enclose underneath the deck with lattice, backed by wire screen.
- Landscaping – Use Firewise plants and mulches in your landscape, and avoid using evergreens and ornamental grasses within 30 feet of the home. Place landscape plants far enough apart that fire cannot spread from one to another.
- Foundation – Clear flammable material away from the house. Keep all plants landscape plants a minimum distance of 4 feet from the house. Do not plant evergreen shrubs or ornamental grasses against the house.
- Outbuildings – Include all outbuildings and fences in your Firewise improvements.
- House – When the time comes to replace the siding or roof of the house, choose fire-resistant building materials such as masonry, aluminum siding, fiber cement board, and asphalt shingles.
- Firewood – Move your firewood pile at least 30 feet from any buildings.
Community Wildfire Protection Planning
As Wildland-Urban Interface areas continue to increase throughout Maryland, the risk that lives and property will be lost to wildfires is also increasing. The most effective way to reduce this risk is through proactive planning. For this reason, the Maryland Forest Service offers community wildfire protection planning services to qualifying Wildland-Urban Interface Communities.
A Community Wildfire Protection Plan analyzes the wildfire risk in a community, and helps guide the efforts of the community residents, homeowners association, developers, and the local fire department in mitigating their wildfire risk. This plan is an important step in raising awareness and coordinating community efforts.
If you live in a Wildland-Urban Interface community that you feel would benefit from having a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, feel free to contact the Firewise Maryland program by calling 301-791-4010, or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information & Literature
1.) Wildland Fire in Maryland Brochure
2.) Protecting Your Home From Wildfire - Article
3.) Open Air Burning Regulations Pamphlet
4.) Wildland-Urban Interface Fact Sheet
5.) Firewise Landscaping Brochure for Woodland Homes
6.) Firewise Landscaping Fact Sheet
7.) Firewise Plant List
Links and Related Sites
Firewise.org - http://www.firewise.org/
Firewise Communities/USA - http://www.firewise.org/Communities.aspx
Virginia DOF Firewise - http://www.dof.virginia.gov/fire/firewise-index.htm
U.S. Forest Service Fire Prevention - http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/prev_ed/
Fire Information Engine Toolkit - http://firecenter.berkeley.edu/toolkit/
Firewise Landscaping Plants:
Fire Performance Plant Selector Database - http://www.fireplantselector.org/
Firewise Plant Lists -
Fire Weather & Wildfire Danger Rating:
Fire Danger Rating - http://www.wfas.net/index.php/fire-danger-rating-fire-potential--danger-32
NOAA Fire Weather Page - http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ridge2/fire/
Fire Weather Forecast - http://www.weather.gov/data/LWX/FWFLWX
Community Wildfire Protection Planning Resources:
CWPP Preparation & Resources - http://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/404
Fire Behavior & Wildfire Research:
For more information on Firewise practices, and how the Firewise Maryland program can help you, please contact:
Wildfire Mitigation Specialist
Maryland DNR Forest Service
6620 Zittlestown Road
Middletown, MD 21769