Defensive Steps for Landowners Facing Wildfire Threats

As drought conditions continue to plague the Southeast, wildfires are an increasing threat to many of the forested acres, much of which is privately owned, and the wildlife that live there. Landowners can take immediate, defensive actions in an effort to mitigate damage and salvage their land.

Manual Fire Breaks

A firebreak (the exposed bare soil pictured on the right) prevents the spread of ground fire by acting as a barrier to the flames.

A firebreak (the exposed bare soil pictured on the right) prevents the spread of ground fire by acting as a barrier to the flames. Photo by Tiffany Woods/ NWF

Manual firebreaks can be created by exposing strips of bare soil or fire impeding vegetation meant to stop or control fire. Creating firebreaks around the perimeter of your land and forested acres can minimize the threat of ground fires entering your property. You can also create interior firebreaks around certain areas, such as a hardwood stand or around a building structure, to minimize risks to this area.

Breaks should be greater than 10 feet wide or twice the estimated flame length. You will first want to clear the planned firebreak strip by using equipment and blading, disking or plowing the break. If these tools are unavailable, you can manually mow and rake the area down to bare soil as an alternative.

Firebreaks are especially important for land with topographic changes, since wildfires burn up a slope faster and more intensely than on flat ground. A steeper slope will result in a faster moving fire with longer flame lengths – firebreaks should be installed accordingly. Due to the steady falling of leaves, fire breaks should be inspected and raked regularly to prevent leaf accumulation.

Reduce Sources of Fuel

Remove as much dead brush and fuel sources from your forests and thin trees if possible. This can be done in the near term and regularly included in future land management. Remove tree branches that are closer to the ground to prevent ground fires from climbing into the canopy, resulting in crown fires. Reduce excess fuel near fire breaks to reduce flame length and potential of fire crossing the break.

Protect Structures and Equipment

Tiffany Woods using a drip torch to ignite a low intensity, control burn on family land in Georgia.

Using a drip torch to ignite a low intensity, control burn on family land in Georgia. Photo by Tiffany Woods/ NWF

Fire officials recommend reducing and managing the area around your house or other building structures for at least 100 feet. Move and isolate any farm equipment and vehicles to safe locations, especially equipment with fuel tanks and highly flammable materials and accelerants.

Additionally, have the equipment (hand tools and/or machinery) used to create and maintain your fire breaks serviced, ready for use, and easily accessible.

Implement Control Burns in the Future

Until burn bans are lifted and rain returns to the region, controlled burning (also called prescribed fire) is NOT an option. However, during the burning season and with wetter conditions, control burns are an economically, effective management tool to reduce fuel loads on the forest floor.

If Faced with a Wildfire

Do NOT attempt to fight the wildfire on your own unless you are a trained wildland firefighter with proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Please contact your local forestry commission.

Learn MoreFind out more about NWF’s forestry work 

 

Written by Tiffany Woods, NWF Sr. Forestry Coordinator with contributions by Drew Arnold, Claude Jenkins and Kyle Marable, Alabama Wildlife Federation Resource Stewardship Biologists

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