I recently attended the Wildland Urban Interface Conference hosted by the International Association of Fire Chiefs and its Ready, Set, Go! Program. In addition to attending classes, I received an Award of Excellence for my agency (South Metro Fire Rescue) for its commitment to wildfire risk reduction.

We were early adopters of the Ready, Set, Go! model because of its simplicity and potential for making a solid difference. You can check it out at www.wildlandfirersg.org.

Getting ready for wildfires, whether you live in forest-, brush-, grass-, combination- or crop-dominated ecosystems, is your responsibility. You chose to live there; you are responsible for adapting to the eventuality of a wildfire occurring in your neighborhood. The local fire department, government or homeowners association can help, but you own the bulk of the responsibility.

Getting ready means looking at your property from the point of view of a wildfire and reducing your risk in three areas: Zone 1, Zone 2 and Zone 3.

In Zone 1, remove combustible materials from within 30 feet of your home or have a plan for moving them inside if a wildfire forces your neighborhood to evacuate. During the warm and dry season, store firewood outside this zone. Remove all junipers, pinyons, mugos, fitzers, cedars and arborvitae.

In Zone 2, which stretches to 100 feet away from your home (not including your neighbor’s living room though), trim coniferous trees to remove low-hanging branches, rake dead leaves and needles, and actively manage your chunk of the ecosystem.

Beyond that area is Zone 3, which may not be applicable in the suburbs. Managing this zone is less intense. Dead trees can remain as habitat for critters, but removing ladder fuels can preserve that habitat.

For information, visit wildlandfirersg.org or contact your local fire department or forest service office.

Illustration courtesy of FireWise