More than the woods: The 2010 Four Mile Fire bunred 169 homes and cost $10 million to fight and $217 million in insurance claims.
The primary determinants of a home’s ability to survive wildfire are its roofing material and the quality of the “defensible space” surrounding it. Follow these guidelines provided by the Colorado State Forest Service and available at csfs.colostate.edu:
Use fire-resistive materials (Class C or better rating), not wood or shake shingles, to roof homes in or near forests and grasslands. When your roof needs significant repairs or replacement, do so with a fire-resistant roofing material. Plant nothing within three to five feet of your home, particularly if it’s sided with wood, logs or other flammable materials. Remove dead branches, stems and leaves in the 15-foot circumference around your home. Do not store firewood, propane tanks or other combustible materials within 30 feet around your home. Ideally, remove all trees from the 15-foot radius surrounding your home. If you do keep a tree, isolate it from any other surrounding trees. Prune off all branches up to at least ten feet above the ground. Within at least 100 feet of all structures on your property, thin standing trees to leave at least 10 feet between the outermost branches of adjacent trees. Also, remove stressed, dead or diseased trees and shrubs, and prune off branches on remaining trees to a height of 10 feet. Remove any branches overhanging the roof and chimney. Regularly clear roof and gutters of debris. Frequently mow grass and weeds to a height of six inches or less. Enclose or screen decks with metal screening. Extend the gravel coverage under the decks. Do not use areas under decks for storage. Have an outdoor water supply available for firefighters. Examples include hot tubs, stock tanks and ponds. Prepare an evacuation plan for your home, share it with all family members, and practice the plan. Consider pets, large animals, important documents, photos and medications. Identify your evacuation route and take into consideration the time required to leave your neighborhood. —J.M.