Note: This is the second article in a series on DIY off grid fire protection and prevention. See Off Grid Home Fire Protection Indoors: What to Know to learn how to handle fire prevention inside your off grid home.
When it comes to DIY off grid fire protection outside your home, your best bet is fire prevention. That's right -the best way to prevent a fire outside your off grid home is to minimize the fire risks around your home's exterior.
10 Tips for Exterior DIY Off Grid Fire Protection and Prevention
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Use the following ten tips to minimize fire hazards outside.
Know Fire's Three Essential Ingredients
Fire requires three essential ingredients or conditions to be dangerous.
That being a heat source, an oxidizing agent (generally oxygen), and the requirement for fuel. Take any one of these away, and there is no fire.
Therefore, when talking about prevention, we must deal with these three things.
There is nothing we can do about oxygen except if a small fire is burning. The heat sources can be minimized around your property, yet forest fires are their heat source.
Safe Storage of Exterior Fuel Sources
Forest fires are the primary concern when living in an off grid home.
This means the easiest item to target for prevention is the fuel source. Obviously, your home itself is a fuel source, but the surrounding area is a good start for prevention.
Many types of fuel are around your homestead that can start a fire.
Identify Trees, Shrubs & Ground Covers as Fire Risks
Many items are also nearby that can maintain an already blazing fire. Prime suspects include trees, shrubs, bushes, and various ground covers.
Contrary to what many might think, it is not only dead brush that is an issue. Live trees and leaves can ignite almost as quickly.
They also do well in keeping a fire going and spreading. It is generally in the homeowner’s best interest to minimize such fuel sources.
Tree Trimming and Proper Disposal of Tree Cuttings and Debris
To minimize risk, trim trees and brush back from structures.
Remove all dead or overhanging branches.
During the windy conditions that exist during a wildfire, flames, sparks, and firebrands could travel from your trees to the roof of your home.
Limb trees up to 10 feet from the ground. This term means “cutting” lower branches on your trees.
Limbing your trees up will help reduce the chances that a fire on the ground will spread into treetops – this is especially important if your property has many trees.
Dispose of cuttings and debris properly.
Please dispose of your yard waste properly, and ensure you don't leave it piled near the house in the backyard. That defeats the purpose of all the work you did. And a lot of yard waste is actually a great source of compost.
Take it from risk to valuable fertilizer.
Clean the Gutters and the Roof
Make sure you remove all dead leaves and pine needles from your gutters, roof, and from around your home.
This dry natural matter left from the winter weather is highly combustible and is like a fire starter for your home.
Clean Up Brush, Clean Under Decks
Reducing the brush around your home might be the most critical factor in preventing exterior fires.
You want a zone with at least 30 feet of space immediately around your off grid home.
It should be free from ignition hazards presented by vegetation and combustible construction. And don't forget to keep the surface and area beneath decks and porches free of debris and leaves.
This not only helps protect your home but also gives you a safer place from which to fight any fire.
Rake the Leaves and Mow The Lawn
Leaf accumulation provides fuel for wildfires. Clear it up. Don't forget that leaves are also another great source of compost.
Check the grass around your house. It can tend to grow tall and unruly during the wet winter months.
These grasses dry out and provide a path for the fire that can lead directly to your house.
Dry grass clippings can also add nitrogen to your compost pile.
Stack Firewood Away from the House
Many people make the mistake of keeping firewood stacked close to the house for easy access. (And yes, we did this at first until we learned better.)
If a spark lands in your wood pile, it could ignite your house.
Make sure you stack wood at least 30 feet away from structures to help protect them from wildfire.
Build an Off Grid Home to Reduce Fire Risk
Keep fire prevention in mind when planning a new build off the grid. Consider the building materials carefully when you buy them for your off grid home.
Use cement board siding, trims, and metal roofing where possible, as those don't burn. This includes the soffits and fascia.
Note that the soffits are a frequent point of ingress for fire.
Another is the windows. If there is a fire nearby, vinyl can soften and melt. And then the glass pane can fall in or out, for example.
Install an Off Grid DIY Fire Prevention System
Off Grid Sprinkler Systems: Yes, you can install sprinklers on an off grid cabin roof.
There are also large sprinklers that could saturate the area surrounding your cabin and buildings.
A couple of our neighbors have installed these.
True, The system is costly upfront, yet peace of mind is invaluable.
You might also save on your homeowners' insurance, which can add up when looking over your off grid costs.
Ideally, your sprinkler system can be triggered automatically or even remotely.
Whether or not an off grid sprinkler system will work in your setup depends on your available water source.
Even a low supply well can aid in filling a holding tank. We're fortunate in that we live on a lake.
We have quick and easy access to all the water we need. Having a hose hookup inside as well as outside is invaluable.
Exterior Fire Suppression Systems
There are also commercially available exterior fire suppression systems. These spray a foam mixture on exterior walls, roofs, and whatever when fire threatens. This, of course, is a somewhat costly investment but, again gives peace of mind.
As with most aspects of off grid living, when it comes to fire protection, prepping and planning ahead are your best options.
Assess the exterior of your home for fire hazards, remove them, and make a plan for your family to follow should a fire occur.