It’s Spring: Remember To ‘Create Defensible Space’

LAFD News:

The Los Alamos Fire Department would like to remind residents of the urgent need to keep “defensible space” concepts in mind when working outside to clean up property around homes and structures this Spring.

Creating defensible space can give firefighters their best possible chance of protecting property if another wildfire ever occurs in the County.

The County’s defensible space guidelines were developed in a unique program funded through the Cerro Grande Fire Recovery Act in 2000, following that devastating wildfire, which destroyed hundreds of homes in Los Alamos.

Many of the nationally published defensible space guidelines were developed for homes where the average lot size is greater than an acre. Most lots in Los Alamos County are much smaller in size. Therefore, LAFD guidelines suggest a zone (“Zone 1”) of at least 30 feet surrounding the home – a place where intensive defensible space measures can be effective.

For larger lots, LAFD has guidelines for a secondary zone (“Zone 2”), which would include the area outside Zone 1 up to an additional 70 feet. 

High Priority Zone 1 Defensible Space Guidelines:

  • Thin tree canopies to allow for an average clearance of 15 feet between crowns of trees
  • For trees taller than 30 feet, trim limbs and branches to be at least 8 feet above ground level
  • Trim tree limbs and branches at least 10 feet from the roof & 15 feet from any chimney
  • Remove dead fuels or combustible debris  away from the home – especially flammable vegetation such as dead leaves or pine needs that can tend to “layer” around properties yearly
  • Vegetation remaining in Zone 1 should be of a fire resistant species and spaced or sized to disrupt ladder fuels (vegetation that allows fire to move from low growing plants to taller ones)
  • Remove dead trees – standing and down – and any dead shrubs, branches or leaves
  • Store firewood and combustible debris (wood scraps, grass clippings, leaf piles, etc) as far away as possible from porches, decks and crawl spaces
  • If a fuel storage tank is present on the property, treat it as a separate structure and give it all possible defensible space considerations allowable by its location
  • Remove selected trees that are in dangerous proximity to the home
  • Remove selected trees as needed to improve fire crew access

Additional Zone 2 Defensible Space Guidelines to be applied, if possible:

  • Thin tree canopies to allow for an average clearance of 15 feet between crowns of trees
  • Vegetation remaining in Zone 2 should be of a fire resistant species and spaced or sized to disrupt ladder fuels (vegetation that allows fire to move from low growing plants to taller ones)
  • Remove dead trees – standing and down – and any dead shrubs, branches or leaves
  • Store firewood and combustible debris (wood scraps, grass clippings, leaf piles, etc) as far away as possible from porches, decks and crawl spaces
  • Remove selected trees as needed to improve fire crew access

Finally, property owners are encouraged to visit with neighbors about defensible space concepts, because the best possible outcome in battling a wildfire occurs when adjacent property owners have created defensible space on their properties, too.

For more information, call LAFD at 505.662.8301.

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