Fire Safety Guidelines for Woodland Homes

Forest / Urban Interface

A home in the woods is a home surrounded by forest fire fuel and in real danger if a forest fire is out of control.You can help minimize the fire threat to your home by providing for basic emergency access, by using fire resistant building materials, and by creating an environment that is more easily defended from forest fires.

Every year, many families lose their homes and possessions to the ravages of wildfire.These losses can be minimized if homeowners take the time and trouble to become aware of safety measures to help protect their homes.Only you can decide if it's worth the effort.

Choose a firesafe location for your home.Check with local fire officials to learn what fire protection is available.Know how long it will take firefighters to reach your location.Select a site with a nearby water supply adequate for fighting a fire.

A dry landscape, steady breeze, and low humidity can turn a minor fire into a major catastrophe in a matter of seconds, right here in Rockingham County.

Suggested Guidelines

  • Choose a level area for your house, set back from steep slopes.Homes overhanging steep slopes are more vulnerable because fire travels uphill faster than on level area.
  • Choose fire resistant building materials for the roof and the siding.The roof is the most vulnerable part of the house.
  • Avoid wooden decks overhanging steep slopes and flammable vegetation.They are very vulnerable to fire.
  • Enclose the underside of decks and structures.
  • Enclose overhangs.
  • Avoid large windows facing steep slopes with heavy vegetation.
  • Install spark arresters on all chimneys.
  • Screen vents with 1/4-inch wire mesh.
  • Use underground power lines.
  • Provide driveway access of 18-20 feet in width.
  • Avoid driveway road grades of 10% or more.
  • Develop a 30-100 foot fire-safe zone (defensible space) around the house.
  • Provide room for a defensible space on all sides.
  • The most critical area is five feet from the house.Leave this area clean and clear.Do not plant flammable evergreen shrubs and trees, such as Juniper, Cedar, and Pines.
  • Flammable vegetation and leaves should be removed and thinned at least 30 feet from the house and up to 100 feet on the downhill side.
  • Remove limbs overhanging or within 10 feet of roofs and chimneys.
  • Leave yard trees and shrubs no closer than 15 feet apart.
  • Prune tree branches 15 feet up from ground level.
  • Establish lawns at least 30 feet whenever possible.

If you have any questions about protecting your property from forest fire, please visit the Virginia Department of Forestry's website,or contact Rockingham County Department of Fire and Rescue at (540) 564-3175.