When working with hand tools, it is best to have personal protection, which includes proper long-sleeved clothing, gloves, hardhat, boots, eye protection, and noise protection equipment.

The sharpest tools are best, since dull tools cause more accidents due to worker fatigue and frustration. Saws, loppers, and other cutting tools should be handled carefully and never put into anything except the wood they are to cut. 

When people work together, they can get in each other’s way, so it is best to work separated by at least two lengths of the vegetation reach. Thus, if you are cutting out 6 foot tall manzanita, you should be working at least 12 feet apart.

Often, having one person cutting and one or more people pulling the cut brush to a pile works most productively and safely. Piles should have vegetation laid parallel for later ease of handling (or burning).

Working with power tools means having another person present and having greater communication so that all understand what the course of work is going to be. If someone tries to engage you in conversation while you are working with a chainsaw or other power tools, stop the equipment if you need to respond. Distractions can cause injury. Working safely means having fire extinguishers and first aid help close by the work site.

Cutting of larger trees (larger than 8 inch stump diameter) needs skill and know-how. These trees can weigh over half a ton and can crush cars and things of value. Someone skilled with a chainsaw and full safety gear needs to do the actual work, and often needs other ground assistance. This cutting should not be done without planning and forethought.

Certified arborists are available for this kind of work, and usually, getting bids from licensed and insured contractors will ensure the best cost for value. Be sure to specify what you want the finished site to look like before work begins.

Vegetation fuel hazards – firebrand

Fire fuels include living and dead native vegetation materials. The most dangerous fuel elements are burning firebrands or ember showers that fall like snow and can be carried by the wind for great distances downwind. Firebrands are unpredictable and can travel miles from the original source of a wildfire, thus spreading destruction in their wake.

It has become clear to firefighters that anticipating and preparing for ember showers is critical and an important role of defensible space.

With defensible space, fires can often be contained on the ground level within the 100-foot radius of the home, allowing firefighters and homeowners more time to deal with firebrands landing on or near the home.

Tips to fire harden your home

Remember, the main reason for implementing defensible space is to protect your home from an advancing wildland fire. Fire hardening should be part of your overall plan.

By fire hardening we mean the steps you can take to reduce the chance of ignition from direct flame, firebrand showers and radiant heat coming from outside of the defensible zone.

What gives a home the best chance to survive a wildfire are its construction materials and the quality of defensible space surrounding it. Embers from a wildfire may find the weak link in your home’s fire protection and gain the upper hand because of a small, overlooked or seemingly inconsequential factor. 

Some tips to keep your home safe:

  • Start by making sure your roof and gutters are clear of flammable vegetation like leaves and pine needles
  • Remove dry grasses from around your home
  • Keep desired vegetation well-irrigated
  • Clear flammable materials from your deck and below, including wood storage, brooms and easily ignitable patio furniture
  • Enclose and seal the area under your deck from wind-driven embers
  • Move the woodpile and lidded garbage cans at least 30 feet or more from the house. Install fine wire mesh screen over roof, eave and foundation vents
  • Inspect chimney and install a spark-arresting mesh screen
  • Relocate propane tanks and other flammable materials to 30 feet or more from the house
  • Retrofit windows, doors, siding and decking with fire-resistant products, as time and budget allow
  • A replacement double pane, metal – not vinyl – window can make the difference between survival and loss

Create Your Own Wildfire Action Plan

Your Wildfire Action Plan must be prepared with all members of your household well in advance of a fire.

Use the following checklists to help you prepare. Each family’s plan will be different, depending on their situation.

Once you finish your plan, rehearse it regularly with your family and keep it in a safe and accessible place for quick implementation. 

Print this template and post it where it can be seen.