HIZ immediate zone with attribute
Fire Break - September 23, 2020

Revisiting the home ignition zone: the immediate 0-5 feet

Here at NFPA we spend a lot of time sharing resources to help residents who are trying to reduce their risk from wildfire. We frequently speak of the home ignition zone and what actions to take, sometimes forgetting that people might be new to the entire concept. 

With that in mind I'd like to take a moment to review the what home ignition zone is and its first component - the home and the immediate area.

The Home Ignition Zone is a concept coined by retired USFS researcher Dr. Jack Cohen.  The basic idea is that the condition of the home (what it is made of and its state of repair) and the vegetation surrounding it, out to 100 feet, have the biggest influence on whether or not a home will ignite from a wildfire. Original research by Dr. Cohen and additional research from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) shows that the first 0 to 5 feet around the structure, known as the immediate zone or noncombustible zone, has the greatest impact on your risk and should be your starting point.

This area is critical due to the primary source of how homes ignite - embers and small surface flames.  You want to keep this zone free of  combustible materials, which can be a landing bed for embers or can help carry surface fires up to the house.

Some items to consider in the immediate zone:    Areas to assess around home

  •  Is there dead vegetation, dried leaves, pine needles, and ground debris near foundations?
  • Has hardscaping been used around perimeters to keep them free of litter/debris? Are there concrete, stone, or gravel walkways?
  • Have wood mulch products been replaced with non-combustible alternatives, such as crushed stone/gravel options?
  • Are there trees/shrubs next to the home? Are there branches overhanging the roof or within 10 feet of chimneys?

Check out these resources to learn more about the area and what actions to take to reduce your risk in this zone:

  • Preparing Homes for Wildfire - get recommendations and download tip sheets (English and Spanish) to share with your family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Immediate (noncombustible zone) wildfire research fact sheet - download this fact sheet and share far and wide with those in wildfire prone areas.
  • Understanding the Wildfire Threat to Homes -This online learning module is an overview of fire history, fire basics, and how homes burn. The module can be completed in approximately 30 minutes and is available in English and Spanish.

By spending a little time in this area you can greatly improve the chances of your home withstanding a wildfire and gain a greater peace of mind.

Sign up for NFPA Network to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA's response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

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Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan
Program Specialist, Megan manages Firewise USA® and holds a deep belief that collaboration is the best way to reduce risk and loss from wildfire.