FireSmart Canada

Become FireSmart: Vegetation and Fuels

Preparing your property for fire does not mean removing all your trees. There are many things you can do to make your home resistant from wildfire. Removing overhanging branches or pruning trees up from the ground can make a difference in protecting your home.

Remember that healthy, well-maintained trees or forestland on your property will provide many benefits and not necessarily pose a major risk for wildfire spread. Your site-specific risk depends on the species and arrangement of the trees, as well as other factors. Consult an arborist or forester to learn more about the health of your landscape. Removing or thinning out some trees may actually be necessary to maintain the health of the rest.

There are a few key things you can do to protect your home from wildfire: 

  • Prune tree branches to a minimum height of 2 metres
  • Remove all combustible trees, long grass, shrubs, logs, branches, twigs and needles within 10 metres of a structure
  • Thin trees (with 3-6 metres between crowns) for at least 30 metres from any structure
  • Store firewood a minimum of 10 metres away from any structures (avoid down slope location)
  • Remove all combustible trees, long grass, shrubs, logs, branches, twigs and needles within 10 metres of a structure
  • Contact your utility company if trees or branches are not clear of power lines
  • Keep mowed and watered grass within 10 metres of buildings
  • FireSmart your fire pit or burning barrel
  • Clear your driveway of trees to a distance of at least 3 metres on either side
What kind of vegetation is combustible?

Any kind! Mature trees, shrubs, grass and even your woodpile can ignite and increase the chance of wildfire damaging your home and property. Managing the space around your home and buildings is very important.

Approaches to reducing hazardous fuels

Fire behaviour is influenced by three basic elements; fuel, weather and topography. Both topography and weather can not be modified, so fuel management is the only way to reduce wildfire behaviour in forested areas. There are three ways of implementing fuel management:

1. Fuel removal

  • Objective:
    • Removing all flammable species to create fire barriers and containment lines.
  • How it’s achieved:
    • Establishing fireguards surrounding a community through harvesting, mulching, mowing or prescribed burning programs. Features such as gravel or concrete pads can also be used as fuel breaks.
  • Where to use fuel removal:
    • Immediately adjacent to high priority areas in communities such as homes and buildings or other important infrastructure.

2. Fuel reduction

  • Objective:
    • Reducing flammable species to reduce fire behaviour potential.
  • How it’s achieved:
    • Selectively removing flammable tree species, pruning low lying tree limbs, and reducing surface and ground fuels. Accomplishing this work can happen in a variety of ways, including mechanical harvesting, hand-crews, mowing, grazing, or mulching.
  • Where to use fuel reduction:
    • In areas that have an abundance of high hazard vegetation as identified in your community’s wildfire threat assessment.

3. Species conversion

  • Objective:
    • Reduce the flammability of surrounding vegetation.
  • How it’s accomplished:
    • Removing all flammable vegetation species and replacing them with less flammable species. Irrigating and maintaining grassy areas and deciduous trees near structures. (see Appendix II for a list of fire resistant plants).
  • Where to use species conversion:
    • Throughout your community by establishing parks, opens spaces, recreational fields, or golf courses. On a broader landscape this can be used through forest management and land disposition planning.

Useful Resources

I am committed to remove all long grass, shrubs, logs, branches, twigs and needles within 10 metres of my home.

— Alvin acorn, Community Member, Yellowhead county , Alberta