Home Ignition Zone Explained 

Learn the details and critical importance of the home ignition zone with this in-depth guidance from the experts at the Western Fire Chiefs Association.

Published:December 20, 2022
Edited:
March 4, 2024

Table of Contents

    Learn the details and critical importance of the home ignition zone with in-depth guidance from the Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA). 

    What is the Home Ignition Zone? 

    The Home Ignition Zone is a buffer of up to 200 feet around your house. It is the defensible space that you can cultivate as a safety bubble to protect your home. Maintaining the Home Ignition Zone can slow or stop the spread of wildfire, defend your house from fire and embers, and protect firefighters who are working to save your home.  

    The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) divides the Home Ignition Zone into three sections: the Immediate Zone, the Intermediate Zone, and the Extended Zone.1 Other sources may refer to these sections differently; for example, FEMA refers to these areas as Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3.2  

    Immediate Zone 

    The first area of the Home Ignition Zone is the house itself and the space within 0-5 feet of the structure. The Immediate Zone is the most important area to protect when your home is at risk of a wildfire. A fire does not have to be close to flammable materials to spread. If the fire is large enough, radiant heat can ignite combustible materials from as many as 100 feet away.3   

    • Make sure there are no flammable materials in the Immediate Zone during wildfire season. Clear out plants, firewood, propane, paint cans, or anything stored against the house or under the porch.  
    • Clear debris from roofs and gutters, as embers can land and ignite these areas.4  
    • Explore some of the ways to ‘harden’ your home against wildfires.  

    Intermediate Zone 

    The second area of the Home Ignition Zone is between 5-30 feet from the house. In the Intermediate Zone, you can build out your home’s defensible space with landscaping to prevent fire from spreading from your yard and plants to your house. 

    • Create breaks in vegetation with patios, flowerbeds, and walkways.   
    • Cut back overgrown areas, especially beneath trees, and remove ladder fuels, which are low tree branches, taller shrubs, or climbing plants that can carry fire from the ground and up into trees.5 Prune trees so branches are 6-10 feet from the ground. 
    • Any tree canopies should end at least 10 feet from the house itself, and trees should have more space between them the closer they are to the house.6   
    home ignition zone checklist
    Is your home prepared for wildfire season? Start with this simple checklist to reduce the risk of fire on your property.

    Extended Zone

    The third Home Ignition Zone is 30 feet from the house and may extend up to 200 feet away. This Extended Zone is the area where you can interrupt fire, reduce the size of the flames, and keep fire lower to the ground, to keep it from spreading as rapidly.7  

    • Clear debris from the ground and reduce dead plants, trees, and leaves.  
    • Keep the area between large, mature coniferous trees clear of smaller trees. Leave at least 12 feet of space between tree canopies when the trees are 30-60 feet from the house, and at least 6 feet of space between tree canopies when trees are 60-100 feet from the house.8 
    • If there are any outbuildings in the Extended Zone, keep them clear of plants and vegetation. 

    Sources

    1. National Fire Protection Agency. “Preparing homes for wildfire.” Accessed December 6, 2022.
    2. FEMA, “Creating a Defensible Space.” Accessed December 6, 2022.
    3. FEMA, “Radiation, Convection, and Firebrands.” Accessed December 7, 2022.
    4. Oregon State University, “The Home Ignition Zone: Protecting Your Property from Wildfire.” Accessed December 6, 2022.
    5. Surviving Wildfire, “Ladder Fuels.” Accessed December 7, 2022.
    6. Texas A&M Forest Service, “Home Ignition Zones and Defensible Space.” Accessed December 6, 2022.
    7. Wildfire Risk to Communities, “Home Ignition Zone.” Accessed December 7, 2022.
    8. National Fire Protection Agency. “Preparing homes for wildfire.” Accessed December 6, 2022.

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