As a homeowner, you are not powerless in your defense against wildfires. By taking a proactive approach to wildfire prevention, you can significantly increase your safety and your home’s likelihood of survival during a catastrophic wildfire event. 
    The actions you take to reduce the risk on your property before a fire occurs can make all the difference. Follow the guidelines below to ensure that your home has the best chance of surviving a wildfire.

     + Create Defensible Space with Fire Resistant Landscaping

    The idea of fire resistant landscaping is to create a separation between fuels a fire needs to continue burning. Fuels include trees surrounding your property, plants used in landscaping and even your home itself.

    A healthy, well-maintained landscape is important to the survival of homes during a wildfire. Here are a few tips to make your landscape fire resistant. 


    Immediate zone

    The home and the area 0-5’ from the furthest attached exterior point of the home; defined as a non-combustible area.  Science tells us this is the most important zone to take immediate action on as it is the most vulnerable to embers. START WITH THE HOUSE ITSELF then move into the landscaping section of the Immediate Zone.

    • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.
    • Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
    • Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8 inch metal mesh screening.
    • Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal mesh screening to reduce embers.
    • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
    • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches. 
    Intermediate zone
    5-30’ from the furthest exterior point of the home. Landscaping/hardscaping- employing careful landscaping or creating breaks that can help influence and decrease fire behavior

    • Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.
    • Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.
    • Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches.
    • Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns.  Prune trees up to six to ten feet from the ground; for shorter trees do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.
    • Space trees to have a minimum of eighteen feet between crowns with the distance increasing with the percentage of slope.
    • Tree placement should be planned to ensure the mature canopy is no closer than ten feet to the edge of the structure.
    • Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape.

    Extended zone
    30-100 feet, out to 200 feet. Landscaping – the goal here is not to eliminate fire but to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames smaller and on the ground.

    • Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.
    • Remove dead plant and tree material.
    • Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.
    • Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.
    • Trees 30 to 60 feet from the home should have at least 12 feet between canopy tops.*
    • Trees 60 to 100 feet from the home should have at least 6 feet between the canopy tops.*

    *The distances listed for crown spacing are suggested based on NFPA 1144. However, the crown spacing needed to reduce/prevent crown fire potential could be significantly greater due to slope, the species of trees involved and other site specific conditions. Check with your local forestry professional to get advice on what is appropriate for your property.

    The goal of fire resistant landscaping is to lower the intensity of a wildfire as it approaches your home. Vegetation that encourages wildlife and enhances water or energy conservation goals can be part of a Firewise landscape as long as defensible space is maintained. 
    For more information check out our brochure on Firewise Landscaping in Texas (PDF, 13MB) or our Ready, Set, GO! Action Guide.
     + Fire Resistant Construction

    Hardening a home describes the process of reducing a home’s risk to wildfire by using non-combustible building materials, keeping the area around your home free of debris and taking steps to prevent embers from entering the home.

    Embers (PDF, 1MB) pose the greatest threat to a home. These fiery little pieces of wood shoot off from the main fire and get carried to other areas by fast-moving air currents. A high-intensity fire can produce a virtual blizzard of embers. Some can travel more than a mile before landing. They can get into the smallest places and easily start a fire that can burn down an entire home.  

    The materials you use to construct your home can determine whether your home will survive a wildfire. While you may not be able to accomplish all the measures listed below, each will increase your home’s chance of survival. Here are a few tips for fire resistant home construction (PDF, 2MB).


    Roof and Gutters

    • Use fire-resistant roofing material such as metal, tile or Class A shingles.
    • Inspect for gaps in roofing that can expose roof decking or supports.
    • Install metal gutters and gutter guards to keep debris from accumulating.
    • Place angle flashing over openings between the roof decking and fascia board.

    For more information, check out this NFPA Fact Sheet on Roofing Materials

    Eaves and Soffits

    • Enclose or box-in eaves with non-combustible materials such as metal, cement board or stucco.
    • Install a metal screen behind roof vents.

    For more information, check out this NFPA Fact Sheet on Under Eaves

    Exterior Walls

    • Select heat and fire-resistant siding such as metal, brick, block, stone, cement board or fire retardant treated lumber. 
    • Make sure there are no crevices or holes that could catch embers.

    For more information, check out this NFPA Fact Sheet on Coatings


    • Install double-paned or tempered-glass windows.
    • Use metal framing or aluminum coverings for wood or vinyl.
    • Use a fiberglass or metal screen.
    • Use drapes and shutters that are fire resistant to help reduce the likelihood of fire spread.

    For more information, check out this NFPA Fact Sheet on Skylights


    • Install 1/8-inch metal screening behind vents.
    • Clean vents to keep them free of debris, allowing them to keep embers out while allowing air flow for ventilation.

    For more information, check out this NFPA Fact Sheet on Embers

    Decks, Fencing and Skirting

    • Spread gravel or other non-combustible material under the deck.
    • Screen in the bottom of the deck with metal 1/8-inch screening.
    • Separate wooden fences from the house with a stone or metal barrier.
    • Use a non-combustible material for skirting around the foundation 

    For more information, check out this NFPA Fact Sheet on DecksNFPA Fact Sheet on Fences and NFPA Fact Sheet on Ember Ignited Decks


    Exterior sprinklers can be used to supplement home hardening practices. See this NFPA Fact Sheet on Sprinklers

    For more information check out our brochure Fire Resistant Materials (PDF, 2MB) and Be Embers Aware (PDF, 1MB).
     + Improving Access for Emergency Responders
    A quick response to a wildfire is critical for saving your home. Firefighting personnel must be able to quickly locate and safely travel to your home. Emergency responders may not be familiar with your community, so highly visible signs are important to help them find their way. 
    You must also remember that fire trucks are larger and heavier than normal vehicles, it is essential that all access lanes are wide enough, have proper clearance and can support the weight of fire vehicles. Here are a few tips to help improve access to your property: 

    Street Signs

    • At least 3-inches tall
    • Words on a contrasting color background
    • Made of reflective material
    • Made of fire resistant material
    • Visible from both directions


    • Streets should be labeled, having different names and numbers.
    • Your home should have its own house number and be in numerical order along your street.
    • If your home is set back from the street, post your address at the end of your driveway where it is visible from the street.
    • If multiple homes share a single driveway, post all addresses at the entrance from the street and at each appropriate intersection along the driveway.


    • Single lane one-way roads should have turnout spaces at regular intervals to allow emergency vehicles access and cars to pass.
    • Design a minimum of two primary roads in every development.
    • Public and private streets should be a minimum of 10 feet wide, in order to allow two traffic lanes.
    • Curves and intersections should be wide enough for large fire equipment to easily pass and turn.
    • Streets and bridges should be built to withstand at least 40,000 pounds
    • Roads and driveways must not be too steep or have sharp curves. 
    • Dead end streets and long driveways should have a turnaround area designed as a T or circle large enough to allow emergency equipment to turn around.
    Whether you live in a community with poorly labeled streets or at the end of a long dead end road, making sure emergency personnel can quickly locate and get to your home can increase your home’s chance of survival during a wildfire.
    For more information, contact your local Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator.