Fire Wise Florida

fire-zonesMany of Florida's natural ecosystems have evolved to be fire dependent, which means the plants have adapted to survive fire, and in fact, help fires continue as a way to eliminate competitive fire vulnerable plants. As the "Lightning Capital of the World", Florida's frequency of wildfire is high and during drought conditions, the impact can be serious.

Citrus County has a high diversity of homesites ranging from large tracts of undisturbed natural habitat to small partially developed subdivisions. These sites rest on the wildland/urban interface where wildfire can put life and property at risk.

The answer to this dangerous risk lies with you. By taking the time to review your homesite and implement one or more of the Firewise concepts, you can greatly reduce your property's vulnerability to wildfire. Please take the time and effort to make your home a Firewise Florida homesite. Your life, our firefighters lives, and you property could be saved by taking a proactive approach.

A Disaster Plan

The time to plan for a fire emergency is now. Take a few minutes to discuss with your family what actions you will need to take.

  • Post your local firefighting agency's telephone number in a visible place;
  • Decide where you will go and how you will get there. Unlike evacuating for a hurricane, with fire you may only have a moments notice. Two escape routs out of your home and out of your neighborhood are preferable;
  • Have tools available: shovel, rake, axe, handsaw or chainsaw, and a two-gallon bucket;
  • Maintain an adequate water source;
  • Have a plan for your pets; and
  • Practice family fire drills.

Fire Resistant Roof Construction

Firewise construction materials include Class-A asphalt shingle, metal, cement, and concrete products. Additionally, the inclusion of a fire-resistant sub-roof adds protection.

Fire Resistant Exterior Construction

Wall materials which resist hear and flames include cement, plaster, stucco, and concrete masonry. Double pane glass windows can make a home more resistant to wildfire heat and flames.

Fire Resistant Attachments

Attachments include any structure connected to your home, such as decks, porches, or fences. If an attachment to a home is not fire-resistant, then the home as a whole is not firewise.

Defensible Space

Do you have at least 30 feet of space surrounding your come that is Lean, Clean, and Green?

The objective of Defensible Space is to reduce the wildfire threat to your home by changing the characteristics of the surrounding vegetation.

  • Lean - Prune shrubs and cut back tree branches, especially within 15 feet of your chimney.
  • Clean - Remove all dead plant material from around your home this includes dead leaves, dry grass, and even stacked firewood.
  • Green - Plant fire-resistant vegetation that is healthy and green throughout the year.

Defensible space allows firefighters room to put out fires.

Lean, Clean And Green Landscaping

With firewise landscaping, you can create defensible space around your home that reduces your wildfire threat. Large, leafy, hardwood trees should be pruned so that the lowest branches are at least six to ten feet high to prevent a fire on the ground from spreading up to the tree tops. Within the defensible space, remove flammable plants that contain resins, oils, and waxes that burn readily: Palmetto, wax myrtle, yaupon holly, red cedar, and young pine. A list of less-flammable plants can be found within this information.

Emergency Access

Identify your home and neighborhood with legible and clearly marked street names and numbers so emergency vehicles can rapidly find the location of the emergency. Include a driveway that is at least 12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet - to provide access to emergency apparatus.

Firewise Construction Checklist

To create you FIREWISE structure, remember that the primary goals are fuel and exposure reduction.

  • Use construction materials that are fire-resistant or non-combustible whenever possible;
  • Consider using materials such as Class-A asphalt shingles, slate or clay tile, metal, or cement and concrete products for roof construction;
  • Construct a fire-resistant sub roof for added protection;
  • Use fire resistant materials such as stucco or masonry for exterior walls. These products are much better than vinyl which can soften and melt;
  • Prevent sparks from entering your home through vents, by covering exterior attic and underfloor vents with wire mesh no larger then 1/8 of an inch;
  • Keep you gutters, eaves, and roof clear of leaves and other debris; and
  • Clear dead wood and dense vegetation within at least 30 feet from your house, and move firewood away from your house or attachments like fences or decks.

Any structure attached to the house, such as decks, porches, fences, and sheds should be considered part of the house. These structures can act as fuses or fuel bridges, particularly if constructed from flammable materials. Therefore, consider the following:

  • If you wish to attach an all-wood fence to your home, use masonry or metal as a protective barrier between the fence and house;
  • Use non-flammable metal when constructing a trellis and cover with high-moisture, fire resistant vegetation; and
  • Prevent combustible materials and debris from accumulating beneath patio deck or elevated porches, screen underneath, or box in areas below the deck or porch with wire mesh no large then 1/8 of an inch.

Firewise Landscaping Checklist

To create a landscape that will make your home less vulnerable to wildfire, the primary goal is fuel reduction. Think of the area around you home in zones. Zone 1 is closest to the structure, Zone 4 is the farthest away.

  • Zone 1 This well-irrigated area encircles the structure for at least 30 feet on all sides, providing space for fire suppression equipment in the event of an emergency. Plants should be limited to carefully space fire resistant tree and shrub species.
  • Zone 2 Fire resistant plant materials should be used here. Plants should be low-growing, and the irrigation system should extend into this section.
  • Zone 3 Place low-growing plants and well-spaced trees in this area, remembering to keep the volume of vegetation (fuel) low.
  • Zone 4 This furthest zone from the structure is a natural area. Thin selectively here and remove highly flammable vegetation.

Also remember to:

  • Carefully space the trees you plant; and
  • Take out the "ladder fuels" - vegetation that serves as a link between grass and tree tops. These fuels can carry fire from vegetation to a structure or from a structure to vegetation.

When Maintaining A Landscape:

  • Keep trees and shrubs pruned. Prune all trees six to ten feet from the ground;
  • Mow your lawn regularly;
  • Dispose of cuttings and debris promptly according to local regulations; and
  • Landscape with less-flammable plants: Dogwood, Viburnum, Redbud, Sycamore, Magnolia, Beautyberry, Oaks, Red Maple, Wild Azalea, Sweetgum, Coontie, Winged Elm, Black Cherry, Persimmon, Wild Plum, Sugarberry, Florida Soapberry, Fringetree, Ferns, Wild Olive, Blue Beech, Hophornbeam, and Sparkleberry