Protect Your Home From Brush Fire
By Denise Laitinen
Because the top three causes of brush fire in Hawaii are human-caused — arson, fireworks and human error — it’s crucial that folks do what they can to protect their property from brush fires. Fortunately, the national Firewise Communities program offers free and easy suggestions Molokai residents can take to reduce their risk to brush fire. With Molokai’s history of large brushfires, and recent case of intentionally-set fires in Kalama`ula, it is especially important to always be ready to protect your property from fire.
“Firewise teaches people how to prepare for a fire before it occurs,” said Denise Laitinen, the Hawaii Firewise Communities Coordinator.
A key part of Firewise landscaping is creating defensible space around your property.
“It’s about being lean, clean, and green,” said Laitinen. By reducing the amount of flammable vegetation around your home, you reduce the risk of flames igniting the house in the first place. “Creating a buffer zone of 30 feet of defensible space around your property will help reduce your risk to wildfire. Even if you only have 5 or 10 feet of yard, you can still be Firewise.”
To create defensible space, prune shrubs and trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet off the ground to prevent fire traveling from the ground to the treetops. Ideally, trees should be spaced ten feet apart in the yard. Make sure plants closest to the house are low to the ground.
Remove dead leaves and plant material from around your home. After you prune, don’t dump your green waste in a corner of the yard or over your back fence. It’s a fire hazard and an invitation for critters to set up home. Look to see where dead leaves collect or land by the wind and make sure you rake or clean these areas regularly. Fire brands can travel up to a mile in windy conditions. A firebrand from burning trash or a brush fire carried by the wind could land in the same area that leaves collect, enabling a fire to smolder or grow.
Plant vegetation with a high-moisture content or plants native to your area. Clear away flammable plants that contain oily resins, such as eucyclyptus or silver oak. Fountain grass and bunch grass are high-intensity fuels that can help spread fire quickly. Kiawe trees are known carriers of fire brands.
Incidentally, most native plants that once occurred in the lowland and coastal leeward areas do not carry fire well and are thus well-suited for fire-safe landscaping and fuel breaks. Low-growing endemic shrubs, such as `ilima papa and the rare `ohai and ko`oloa`ula are ideal for coastal locations.
For more information on how you can make your home Firewise, contact the Hawaii Firewise Communities Coordinator at (808) 281-3497 or by email at email@example.com. Stay up to date on local wildfire safety issues and Firewise activities on social media. Facebook: Firewise Communities Hawaii, Twitter: @FirewiseHawaii, Google+: +FirewiseCommunitiesHawaii.