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Definition

Urban Interface (Wildland Urban Interface): The line, area, or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels.

The Wildland Urban Interface Issues

More and more people are leaving the cities and cleanly laid out subdivisions for the more natural setting "in the country." While this is the envy of many homeowners, this movement "back to the country" creates many new problems for homeowners and firefighters.

Some of the issues facing today’s Urban Interface dwellers include:

  • Lack of awareness of how the vegetation on their property will burn and how it will react during a fire.
  • A misunderstanding that there can be a significant fire danger even when "it looks so green" and "we had a wet winter."
  • Miscalculating the probability of a fire and if one happens how long will it take the fire department to reach the location.
  • Most property owners are unfamiliar with the problems faced by firefighters in a wildland fire environment.
  • The false belief that the "natural look" of wood siding and wood shingles out weigh the risks of using these items on their homes.
  • The increased risk a fire reaching a home positioned on a ridge overlooking "the best view in the area, but the view from the overhanging deck is even more incredible." "You feel like you’re living in the trees."
  • The lack of accessibility to the property; "The driveway makes the house seem so private, the turns and overhanging trees block out all views from the road."
  • The fact that many local homeowner associations may discourages cutting vegetation with the intent of protecting everyone’s privacy and keeping a completely natural setting. What these associations fail to understand is that fire is common in the "natural" setting. Fire is nature’s way of cleaning the forest.

The urban interface dweller needs to know the dangers of a wildland fire in their communities. Ask your local fire department if they will conduct a survey for your property. Most fire departments will welcome the opportunity to discuss the Urban Interface issues with you and make recommendations that will increase the safety of your family and property.

Listed below are eight major reasons that property is lost or damaged in a wildland fire:

  • Limited Water Supply
  • Property is located in a heavy fuel bed
  • Poor access for fire vehicles due to sharp turns, steep slopes, property located at the end of a long dead end street or a long cul-de-sac
  • Wood Construction
  • Wood Shingle Roof
  • Flammable vegetation not separated from the buildings
  • Structures built on a steep slope, at the head of a box canyon or on a narrow ridgeline with vegetation below the property.
  • Decks overhanging steep slopes.

If you are asked to evacuate your property during a wildland fire do so immediately. The longer you delay, the more risk you place on the safety of you and your family, not to mention the safety of the firefighters battling the fire.

The wildland firefighters will do all they can to stop the fire spread and save as much property as possible.

Protect Your Home

Reduce The Amount of Fuel Immediately Surrounding Your Home
The fire safety goal of landscaping and maintenance is very simple. Reduce the amount of fuel immediately surrounding your home. This does not mean your property has to be barren. Some plants are more fire resistive than others. One of the most important things a homeowner can do is to create a safety zone or fire break around the house using these fire resistive plants.

Size of Your Safety Zone
In most areas, a safety zone should be cleared away from your home for a distance of no less than 30 feet.

As the slope of the lot increases, additional clearance as far as 100 feet may be necessary.

Keep Your Roof Clear
Remember to sweep your gutters, eaves ,and roof on a regular basis, especially during the hot dry weather of the fire season. Tinder dry leaves, needles and Cedar needles are a fire waiting to happen.

Stack Firewood Well Away From Your Home
Stack your firewood well away from anything that's combustible, including fences and outbuildings.

What Measures Are Fire Agencies Taking to Protect You

Learn How You Can Better Protect Your Property

To learn more about the wildland fire danger in your area, and what you can do to increase the safety of your property, contact Carson City Fire Department at (775)887-2210. 

Additional Information may be requested from the following:

National Fire Protection Association
Public Fire Protection Division
1 Batterymarch Park
PO Box 9101
Quincy, MA 02269-9101
617-770-3000

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service
Fire & Aviation Management
PO Box 96090
Washington, DC 20090-6090
703-235-3220

National Association of State Foresters
444 N. Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
202-624-5415

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Last updated: 2/16/2007 11:50:46 AM