Clean roof surfaces and gutters to remove leaves, branches, or debris which can catch a stray spark from a nearby fire and ignite.
Photo: Alayne Blickle
Many horse owners live in rural areas that are surrounded by trees or open rangeland with grass or shrubs. In a dry year these materials can easily become fuels for wildfire--high temperatures, limited summer rainfall, strong winds, and lightning storms all lead to very high risk of fire danger.
Here are a few points to help you identify wildfire risks for your horse property along with the appropriate actions to minimize those risks. Follow up by reading the future Smart Horse blog, Evacuation Planning, to help you put together a firewise evacuation plan for your property and horses should the threat of wildfire become real.
- Create a defensible space between buildings that are less than 15 feet apart. A defensible space is an area where combustibles and vegetation is kept to a minimum. When planning or building new outbuildings place them as far apart as is reasonably possible, 30 feet or more is best.
- When possible, locate barns, shelters, and other structures on flat land or towards the bottom of a slope. Fires burn more rapidly up hills and draws than across a flat. Draws can serve as a chimney, creating more intense fires that spread rapidly with uphill drafts.
- Create a firewise landscape around your home, barn and other structures using plants that are low growing, drought tolerant, high moisture content, high salt or soap content, low oil or resin content, and have green stems. See the past Smart Horse Keeping blog on this topic.
- Flammable outdoor items can catch an ember and ignite. Remove things such as wood patio furniture, brooms, flowerboxes, and flammable doormats. Replace with nonflammable materials such as wrought iron patio furniture.
- Wooden or plastic fences burn and can lead a fire to buildings. Choose other types of fencing when possible. It’s especially important to avoid combustible fencing when it attaches to buildings or structures. If you already have this create a removable section such as a gate or panel that can be taken out or left open when there’s a threat of fire.
- When building or planning new outbuildings choose nonflammable materials such as metals for sidings and roofs. Consider tile, brick or adobe--and green roofs. Replace combustible sidings or roofs with nonflammables.
- Create a firebreak, a 15 to 30 foot buffer of cleared land placed between combustibles like crops, hay storage, bedding storage or feed storage, and other structures (barn, house, fences, etc.) A firebreak can be a plowed or disked strip, a dirt road, a path mowed down low, or possibly even a walking trail.
- Remove cheatgrass and dried weeds through grazing, mowing, prescribed burning or herbicide use. During fire seasons keep all vegetation within 100 feet of buildings either green and low or grazed down.
- Clean roof surfaces and gutters to remove leaves, branches or debris. These materials can catch a stray spark from a nearby fire and ignite.
- Keep firewood, trash, lumber, empty feed sacks 15 to 30 feet away from buildings or other combustibles.
About the Author
Alayne Renée Blickle, a life-long equestrian and reining competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award winning, nationally acclaimed environmental education program. Well known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approaches, Alayne is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners for over 15 years teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Alayne and her husband raise and train their reining horses at their ranch in sunny Nampa, Idaho.