Skip to main content

Embrace Defensible Space this Spring: An Essential Guide for Fire Prevention and Insurance Preparation

By May 15, 2023April 18th, 2024No Comments

Spring brings beautiful blooms and warmer weather, but it also ushers in Oregon’s wildfire season. Now is the time for homeowners, renters, and business owners to prioritize fire prevention and safety. A key element of this preparation involves creating a “defensible space” around your property, a strategy endorsed by the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office. This blog post will delve into the concept of defensible space, outline effective strategies for establishing one, and shed light on important aspects of home insurance coverage you should review.

Understanding Defensible Space:

In the context of wildfire management, a defensible space refers to a safety buffer zone intentionally created around a property. This buffer separates the property from grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surrounds it. The ultimate goal of defensible space is to slow or halt the spread of wildfire, thereby providing crucial protection to homes, businesses, and other structures.

Incredibly, defensible spaces can offer protection from firebrands and embers that can travel several miles from the firefront. Studies underscore the effectiveness of well-maintained defensible spaces, revealing that they significantly increase a structure’s chances of surviving a wildfire, even in scenarios where firefighters cannot reach it.

Creating a Defensible Space: Tips and Best Practices:

Creating a defensible space can seem overwhelming, but it’s more manageable when broken down into smaller tasks. Here are some key strategies based on the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office’s comprehensive guide:

  1. Trim bushes and low-hanging tree limbs: Regularly trimming low-hanging tree limbs and bushes minimizes the chance of fires spreading to your property.
  2. Clean gutters and roofs regularly: Clearing leaves, pine needles, and other flammable debris from your gutters and roof mitigates the risk of a fire spreading to your home.
  3. Remove bark dust from wooden areas: Regularly removing bark dust from areas near wooden decks and houses can help prevent a fire from igniting.
  4. Minimize flammable items: Flying embers are a major cause of home loss during wildfires. Limit flammable items such as outdoor furniture that could potentially catch fire.
  5. Plan and Implement Gradually: You can get started on creating a defensible space over a weekend, gradually implementing changes and upgrades over time to your home or landscape.
Fire Prevention, Defensible Space, Wildfire Safety

Reviewing Your Home Insurance:

Alongside the creation of defensible space, it’s equally critical to review your home insurance coverage. Wildfires can cause extensive damage, and ensuring that you’re adequately insured can provide significant peace of mind. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  1. Dwelling Coverage: This coverage pertains to the structure of your home. It’s crucial to ensure that the coverage limit is sufficient to rebuild your home in the event of a total loss. Factors to consider include the size of your home, the cost of local construction, and any unique features or materials that might increase rebuilding costs.
  2. Personal Property Coverage: This coverage protects your personal belongings inside your home, such as furniture, clothing, and electronics. Make sure the coverage limit is enough to replace your items if they’re damaged or destroyed by a fire. Consider a policy that offers replacement cost coverage, which pays to replace your belongings without factoring in depreciation.
  3. Additional Living Expenses (ALE) Coverage: If wildfire forces you to evacuate your home, ALE coverage can help cover living expenses over and above your normal living costs. These can include hotel bills, restaurant meals, and other costs you incur while your home is being rebuilt.
  4. Fire Department Service Charge Coverage: This covers charges from the fire department for saving or protecting your home. Ensure your policy includes this provision, as costs can add up quickly.
  5. Understand the Exclusions: Some policies may exclude certain events from coverage. Make sure you understand what these are and consider purchasing additional coverage if necessary. For example, if your policy excludes damage from landslides, a common occurrence after wildfires, you may want to consider adding landslide coverage.
  6. Review Regularly: It’s a good practice to review your policy annually or whenever significant changes occur, such as renovations or the purchase of expensive items.

Creating a defensible space around your property this spring is an investment in your safety and peace of mind. But remember, while it increases the chances of your property surviving a wildfire, it doesn’t completely eliminate the risk. Always heed evacuation orders and ensure your insurance coverage is adequate. Regularly review your insurance policy, ensuring it evolves with any changes in your home or lifestyle.

Beyond the tangible steps of creating a defensible space and ensuring proper insurance coverage, awareness, and preparedness are your best defenses. Stay informed about the potential fire risks in your area and take proactive measures to protect your property and loved ones.

For further assistance or to learn more about defensible space, contact your local fire agency or the Oregon State Fire Marshal online at