Kansas experienced its deadliest wildfire season ever in the spring of 2017, when more than 650,000 acres burned in March.
Now, the Tree Care Industry Association has come out with several guidelines to help farmers and homeowners design and maintain a landscape that discourages fires and protects homes and other buildings.
"Fires need fuel, such as dead trees, shrubs and grasses," says Tchukki Andersen, a board-certified master arborist and certified tree safety professional with the TCIA. "While no landscape is fireproof, there are steps you can take to reduce the danger."
1. Reduce the potential fuel.
Create a tree-, shrub- and brush-free space between your home and the farmland surrounding it to ensure that your home can survive without firefighters. Remove dead branches and don’t let dead vegetation needles or leaves build up on the roof or in gutters.
2. Keep vegetation well-irrigated.
If you live in a high-hazard area, there should be a clearance of between 50 and 100 feet of well-irrigated vegetation surrounding your home in all directions. The widest area should be on downhill sides of the lot. If you live in an area where wildfires are possible but not common, you can narrow the clearance to around 30 to 50 feet.
3. Plant low-growing shrubs.
Choosing low-growing shrubs for planting closest to the house makes it less likely that sparks from burning vegetation will be thrown high into the air and catch roofs or siding on fire.
4. Keep trees pruned and thinned.
When planting trees make sure they are no closer than 10 feet apart. Prune the lower limbs of tall shade trees 6 feet above the ground. If you need large broken or dead limbs trimmed high in the tree, contact a professional arborist. Trees that are professionally pruned have better structural integrity and are better able to resist fire.
5. Keep trees healthy.
"As a general rule, the healthier the tree, the more likely it is to survive a fire," explains Andersen. "In addition to pruning, a professional arborist can recommend fertilization, soil management, disease treatment or pest control measures to promote healthy trees. Landscape design and maintenance are also important factors in a home's survival."
Source: Tree Care Industry Association