Living in the Wildland-Urban Interface


By Roberta Tolan

SUN Columnist

When you live in the beautiful natural areas of Archuleta County, you live in what we call the wildland-urban interface, the area where structures and human development meet with wildland vegetation.

Living in this area leaves you at risk from a wildfire, and it is important to act proactively to minimize the risk to yourself and property by creating a wildfire-defensible zone around your home.

A defensible space is the natural and landscaped area around your home and property that has been modified to reduce fire hazard.  This defensible space will help give your property a chance against a wildfire and help prevent the spread of a fire to the surrounding forest or other homes.

Creating defensible space — Zone 1

An effective defensible space involves three management zones in which different techniques are used. These management zones should be created around each structure to be protected and it is important to remember that once created, these zones may need on-going maintenance to maintain the defensible space. As you start this project of creating a defensible space around your home and property, start in the area closest to the home and work outward.  Even though there are no guarantees that property can be protected, the creation of each zone will help significantly in the protection of your home in the case of wildfire.

The following is the first of a four-part series on creating a wildfire defensible space around your home and property. This information is taken from the Colorado State Forest Service publication “Protecting Your Home from Wildfire: Creating Wildfire-Defensible Zones” and can be downloaded in its entirety at

Zone 1 is the area closest to the structure, extends a minimum distance of 15-30 feet depending on the property size and requires maximum hazard reduction. Increasing the width of Zone 1 will increase the structure’s survivability and should be increased 5 feet or more in areas downhill from a structure. Begin measuring this zone from the outside edge of the home’s eaves and any attached structures such as decks.

The following specific treatments are recommended within Zone 1:

• Install nonflammable ground cover and plant nothing within the first five feet of the house and deck. This is particularly important if a building is sided with wood, logs or other flammable materials.

• If a structure has noncombustible siding, widely spaced foundation plantings of low-growing shrubs or other fire-resistant plant materials are acceptable. Do not plant directly under windows or next to foundation vents and be sure areas of continuous grass are not adjacent to plantings.

• Prune and maintain any plants in Zone 1 to prevent excessive growth. Remove all dead branches, stems and leaves within and below the plant.

• Irrigate grass and other vegetation during the growing season. Keep wild grasses mowed to a height of six inches or less.

• Do not store firewood or other combustible materials anywhere in Zone 1. Keep firewood at least 30 feet away from structures and uphill if possible.

• Enclose or screen decks with 1/8-inch or smaller metal mesh screening and do not use area under decks for storage.

• Ideally, remove all trees from Zone 1 to reduce fire hazards. The more trees removed, the safer the home will be. If you keep trees in this zone, extend the distance of the entire defensible space accordingly.

• Remove any branches that overhang or touch the roof and remove all fuels within 10 feet of the chimney.

• Remove all pine needles and other debris from the roof, deck and gutters. Rake pine needles and other organic materials debris at least 10 feet away from all decks and structures.

• Remove slash, wood chips and other woody debris from Zone 1.

Next week, we will address Zone 2; the area 100 feet from your home.

More information on protecting your home and property from fire can be found at the Colorado State Forest Service website at and from Colorado State University Extension and its partnering organizations at

Colorado State University Cooperative Extension provides science based information on youth development (4-H), agriculture and natural resources, horticulture, family and consumer sciences and community development.


July 4 — Extension Office closed.

July 4 — Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo, 2 p.m.

July 5 — Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo, 7 p.m.

July 6 — Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo, 2 p.m.

July 8 — 4-H Cooking Project meeting, 10 a.m.

July 8 — 4-H Sewing Project meeting, 3 p.m.

July 8 — 4-H Record Book help meeting, 3 p.m.

July 8 — Fair Livestock Committee meeting, 5:30 p.m.

July 9 — 4-H Sewing Project meeting, 3 p.m.

July 9 — 4-H Rocky Mtn Riders Club meeting, 6 p.m.

July 9 — Farm Bureau meeting, 6:30 p.m.

July 10 — 4-H Sports Fishing Project meeting, 6 p.m.

July 10 — Fair Board meeting, 6 p.m.

July 10 — 4-H Pagosa Peaks Club meeting, 6 p.m.

July 10 — 4-H Weekly Weigh-in, 6 p.m.

July 11 — Mountain View Homemakers auction, 9 a.m.

July 11 — 4-H Poultry Project meeting, 4 p.m.

July 11 — Thursday Night Rodeo, 6 p.m.

July 11 — 4-H Shady Pines Club meeting, 6:30 p.m.

July 12 — 4-H Fair Promotion Day, 9:30 a.m.