Is Your Home Defensible Against Wildfire?

Skyline ridge is rated at the highest level of risk for serious wildfires in Community Wildfire Protection Plans being developed by state, county and local agencies. This is due to many factors, including heavy fuels build-up in forests , flammable vegetation close to homes, limited water supply, steep slopes, limited firefighter access, narrow driveways, etc.

There are also unique hazards in the canyon around Cornelius Pass Road where many people live. Cornelius Pass is a major transit route for gasoline tanker trucks and other hazardous cargo. The canyon has steep slopes, and fire started by a tanker truck accident could spread sparks and embers over long distances on a hot and windy day.

Is Your Home Defensible?

In a major wildfire, TVFR would use triage to deploy its limited personnel and equipment first to homes that have the greatest likelihood of being saved by firefighting crews. Which properties that TVFR has deemed safe for firefighters to enter and most likely to be saved by their efforts is largely due to proactive steps the homeowner has taken to make their home more defensible.

TVFR offers all residents a free site visit to suggest ways to create or improve a defensible space, discuss access needs, water supply, etc. To arrange a visit, contact Deputy Fire Marshal Ed Bonillo at (503) 259-1507 or via email Edward [dot] Bonollo [at] tvfr [dot] com.

How to Make Your Home More Fire Resistant

  • Replace wood shake roofs with non-flammable roofing material
  • Remove leaves & needles from gutters, roofs, & decks
  • Remove tree limbs that overhang roof
  • Keep decks free of flammable furniture, door mats, etc.
  • Screen vents and areas under decks with 1/8" metal mesh.
  • Dispose of debris safely.

Defensible Space

“Defensible space” is a safety zone around your home that may help firefighters SAFELY protect your home from an encroaching fire. The recommended minimum defensible space is 30 feet, while homes located on a slope should have at least 100 feet of defensible space.

You can create defensible space by:

  • Planting low-growing, fire-resistant plants (groundcover, perennials, and annuals) near your home.
  • Planting individual shrubs and hardwood trees (they are less flammable than evergreen, fir, or pine trees) at least 10 feet from your home.
  • Mowing (to 6”) and watering lawns and other green belts regularly.
  • Removing brush, dry grass, and leaves from underneath decks and crawlspaces.
  • Keeping your landscaping well pruned and watered.
  • Storing firewood and other combustibles at least 100 feet from your home.

OSU Extension publishes an excellent reference, “Fire Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes,” PNW 590. To view the PDF version online, visit or order a printed copy for $3.

Ways to Improve Firefighter Access:

  • Post address signs so emergency responders can find you. If you need a rural address sign, please call North District office (503) 259-1400.
  • Trim branches along your driveway at least 14' tall & 14' wide for fire trucks.
  • Construct a fuel break along your driveway - 15' on both sides.
  • Turn-out if driveway more than 150 ft. long or not wide enough for two-way traffic
  • If you have an automatic or manual gate, get a Knox lock which only firefighting agencies can access.
  • Any bridges on your driveway must be capable of supporting trucks weighing 60,000 pounds

Based on a presentation by representatives of Oregon Dept. of Forestry (ODF) and Tualatin Valley Fire & Recue (TVFR) at the Skyline Grange on May 19, 2011.