Firewise Information | South Dakota Department of Agriculture

Firewise Information

The Role of Fire

Fire is a natural process. Fire has helped shape our wild lands for thousands of years and is important for the survival of many plants and animals. Fire reduces accumulation of vegetation that can inhibit plant growth. Periodic fire stimulates growth, increases reproduction of plants, and regenerates wildlife habitat.

Survivable Space Around Your Home

Survivable space is an area around your home in which the fuels – such as trees, grass, and brush – have been modified or eliminated to reduce the intensity of a wildfire or stop the spread all together.

Mitigation plans have historically been utilized to create defensible properties, when they actually are intended to create survivable properties. Survivable space aims to enable properties to better withstand a wildfire without intervention and direct protection provided by firefighting forces. During a significant wildfire event, it is likely that there may not be adequate firefighting resources available or conditions will not allow for protection of all homes.

The Home Ignition Zone

The home ignition zone, the area around your home which determines the survivability of your home in the event of a wildland fire, is divided into three zones based on distance from the home.

This is a list contains suggestions and recommendations and is intended to serve as a guide to increase the chances of your home surviving a wildland fire without fire department intervention.

Zone 1: 0-30 feet from your home

  • Your Home:
    • Noncombustible roofing and siding
    • Noncombustible soffits and overhangs
    • Remove debris from roofs and gutters
    • Double pane windows
    • Screen all windows and vents with 1/8 inch or smaller metal screening
    • Enclose chimneys with an approved spark arrester
    • Relocate flammable items such as patio furniture, brooms, flowerboxes, and doormats inside or away from your home during months of high fire probability
  • Immediate Landscape:
    • Few trees and shrubs should be located within this zone
    • Fire resistive plants without volatile oils and resins (no juniper/cedar)
    • Maintained and well-watered grass mowed to less than 4 inches
    • Tree crown spacing at least 30 feet apart
    • Keep tree crowns at least 10 feet from your home
    • Rock mulch buffer around home with wood mulch at least 12 inches away

Zone 2: 30-100 feet from your home

  • Sparse juniper and other coniferous shrubs
  • Average tree crown spacing of 30 feet
  • Encourage deciduous tree growth
  • Keep firewood and propane tanks at least 30 feet from your home and maintain a clear area around them. Consider burying your propane tank.
  • Use driveways, retaining walls, sidewalks, and patios as fuel breaks

Zone 3: 100-300+ feet from the home

  • Remove all:
    • Storm damaged trees
    • Multiple crown trees
    • Trees deemed otherwise unhealthy (insect or disease)
  • Average pine crown spacing should be 30 feet
    • Average spruce group spacing should be 30 feet apart, left in groups of 5-10 trees

Visit the Great Plains Fire Safe Council website to learn more about how to protect your home from wildland fire.