The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging property owners in rural and wooded areas to be “Firewise” as they go about fall clean-up chores around their homes and cabins.
“Fall is an excellent time to reduce the risks of wildfires to cabins and homes,” said Allissa Reynolds, a wildfire prevention specialist with the DNR. “Thinning brush and clearing debris around your home or cabin now will improve the likelihood that, come spring fire season, your home will be safe.”
The DNR offers a variety of guidelines for homeowners to reduce the risks of wildfires to their homes and cabins through its Firewise program. Firewise aims to reduce losses from wildfire by helping homeowners identify areas at risk for wildfires, and by mitigating hazards through planning, education and funding assistance.
Reynolds recommends that homeowners pay special attention to four key factors that can affect how well a home is safeguarded against wildfire:
• Access – Make sure firefighters and emergency vehicles can easily find and access your home.
• Site – To lessen chances of a structure catching fire, establish at least a 30-foot “defensible zone” around structures, within which flammables such as excess vegetation, firewood, and fallen leaves and needles have been removed. Further reducing potential fuels in the wooded area 100 feet around the home by thinning and pruning trees and reducing underbrush will lessen the intensity of an approaching wildfire.
• Structure – Some home modifications – such as re-siding with brick, stone, stucco or steel, and replacing shake roofing with class A
shingles or steel – can reduce fire risk.
• Burning practices – Leaf and debris fires that get out of control are the number-one cause of wildfires in Minnesota; consider alternatives like composting. Recreational fires should be located in a fire-safe pit or container and completely extinguished before being left unattended.
The DNR Firewise program is part of a national Firewise program initiated and funded in part by the USDA Forest Service. For more information, visit Firewise at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/firewise/or contact a DNR forestry office near you.