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Thread: Cutting trees for a fire break around cabin. Do or Don't

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    Member Longkj's Avatar
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    Default Cutting trees for a fire break around cabin. Do or Don't

    Hello forum members,

    I am a new cabin/remote property owner and I wanted to get some advice from others on here about fires and how to protect my property in the event of a fire.

    I wanted to see if cutting trees down around my cabin for a fire break makes sense. After the fire on the pen last year its been something that's been on my mind. What do you think? Should I or shouldn't I.

    I was also thinking that if there was a fire in my cabin and it started a forest fire, would that make me liable for other properties that get burned down?

    Let me know what you think.

    LongKj

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    Plenty of cabins survived the Caribou Hills fire a few years ago. The ones with defensible space. Forest Service dropped water around the ones that looked like they had a chance of surviving. They didn't waste resources trying to save the impossible.
    Hunt Ethically. Respect the Environment.

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    spitballing a couple ideas.

    First, hardwood forests are a natural firebreak (in Alaska, I don't know about the lower-48) while fire will travel through grass. So, if your cabin is surrounded by birch/poplar mix, clearing could actually make you more vulnerable, if you replaced hardwood with grasses. Of course, you would probably still be surrounded by hardwood forest, despite your open grassy field around the cabin, so you would probably be fine anyways. The larger point is that birch/poplar/alder isn't a fire risk.

    Second, rather than cutting down all your spruce trees, you can accomplish a lot by thinning them. You can leave them in clusters, but make sure that the branches from one cluster to another are 15-feet apart. You can also accomplish a lot by pruning the lower branches off of your spruce trees up to 6 or 8 feet above ground.

    The forest service does recommend that you do fuel management such as mentioned above for an area 100 feet from the cabin.

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    Member Music Man's Avatar
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    Cut the ones that could reach the cabin if blown over.
    When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away.
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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Yes you should cut any trees that could potentially land on your cabin. You could use a clinometer to see wich ones actually are tall enough to reach if your not sure.
    And yes if you are determined to be the cause of a fire you could be responsible for damages to other properties and most certainly will have to cover part or all of the cost of fire supression.
    "The closer I get to nature the farther I am from idiots"

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    I'm glad you asked about this Longkj. Because I was actually wondering the same thing. Since I heard on the news last night that the fire danger will be really high this year with a lack of snow. I have some property in the Lake Louise area. What would be the recommended way to protect your property out there with the short trees (black spruce). How far away from your dwelling should you clear the black spruce to protect your dwelling? And also is there any way to prevent a ground fire other than tearing away the tundra? My property is on a hill that slopes down to a lake, so unless the fire started down by the lake I would think that would help me. Since fires usually spread uphill and not downhill. Unless of course there are strong winds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
    I'm glad you asked about this Longkj. Because I was actually wondering the same thing. Since I heard on the news last night that the fire danger will be really high this year with a lack of snow. I have some property in the Lake Louise area. What would be the recommended way to protect your property out there with the short trees (black spruce). How far away from your dwelling should you clear the black spruce to protect your dwelling? And also is there any way to prevent a ground fire other than tearing away the tundra? My property is on a hill that slopes down to a lake, so unless the fire started down by the lake I would think that would help me. Since fires usually spread uphill and not downhill. Unless of course there are strong winds.
    It would be a good idea to have a pump you could use to get water from the lake to fight fire if you happen to be there at the time. A gas powered one, or electric and a generator. I keep rain barrels at my place since there is no water nearby, but they often are empty when fire danger is at it's peak. I also have several fire extinguishers handy, and fire fighting tools. Also a bucket or 2 of sand. Don't stack firewood under the eaves. Use a weed wacker to keep the vegetation short near the cabin.
    Hunt Ethically. Respect the Environment.

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    The single biggest thing I learned about wildfires and cabin from the fire on the peninsula in Caribou Hills a few years back was the following.

    Skirt your cabin all the way to the ground! Most all the cabins that burned sat up in the air with an open area under them for storage. Of course most of them had dry lumber under them making matters even worse. That fire was so hot that much of it didn't travel on the ground as much as it did through the dry beatle kill tree tops. Often they explode like little bombs tossing fire balls to the ground starting spot fires. So yes. Cutting back the trees would help. But often times these bombs would land under the cabins. A little wind fanning it and before long the entire cabin is engulfed in flames. That was a common scene up there. Often times the cabins were gone. Yet unburned grass and dead trees all around it. Also. The outhouses generally got scorched but didn't burn. Same for generator sheds full of fuel. Why? They sat flat on the ground.

    If you have a cabin on pilings, skirt it all the tight to the ground. Prevent a fire or hot coals from getting under it. We cut access doors in them so we can use that space. But make sure they seal up tight. Hope this helps someone save a cabin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SmokeRoss View Post
    Plenty of cabins survived the Caribou Hills fire a few years ago. The ones with defensible space. Forest Service dropped water around the ones that looked like they had a chance of surviving. They didn't waste resources trying to save the impossible.
    The fire fighting effort on this fire was selective. The forest service guys and air tankers did a fabulous jobs of saving all the cabins on private tax paying land. I don't believe there was a single cabin lost. Some out buildings but no cabins. They were incredible in their efforts and results.

    However it was a different story further back up in the old cabin area. Alot, if not most of the permitted trespass cabins burned. And that is where lessons where learned in what worked and didn't work as far as prevention before a fire. I think every old cabin that survived either sits on the ground, or was skirted. And clearing around them of course helps as well.

    As I was typing this it dawned on me of a handful of legal tax paying cabins that did indeed burn. But very very few given the number of cabins up there.

    Like I said. The fire fighters were amazing. The air tankers were huge. But there were alot of guys on the ground as well pulling burning lumber from under cabins that would have otherwise been lost. Can't thank those guys enough!

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    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    Here is some good info on making your property fire smart.
    It is put out by the government here in the NWT on how to make your cabin property less vulnerable during wild fires.
    The home owners manual gives a thorough view on what should be done in order to be fire safe.

    http://www.n***ire.com/cms/pages/firesmart-program

    Seems the forum software doesn't like my link.
    Where the 3 *** are put in the letters w t f

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    Thanks for the reply everyone! I am lucky to have a such a great place to spend quality time with my family.

    I think its mostly to the idea that I respect the other properties around me and I want to protect my investment.

    From other research I've come up with I think I'm going start clearing trees that can fall on the cabin and clearing old dead logs that were cut and left over from the previous owner (cleaning up). The area that I am in is THICK. There is a ton of old mans beard, spruce, birch, and cottonwood. I have some work cut out for me but, it sure will be nice to have plenty of firewood for the cabin during the next real southcentral winter.

    Also, if you have a cabin on the chase or freeman trails dont hesitate to PM me if you need anything. Good neighbors are good to have!

    Thanks again!

    LongKJ

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    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    For the trees I leave standing I use lopping shears to cut off all the lower branches from about 6' down to the ground.
    Helps stop ground fires from getting up into the trees.

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    I have a place along the Chase trail. To help prevent fire loss I have followed the 'fire wise' program parameters and have the main cabin roofed and sided with metal siding. This siding terminates at the ground. Getting your place fire ready is a multi year program that I am still working on. Pruning tree branches is better done in the winter off the seat of the snowmachine....I can reach up 14', and I cut brush during late fall to pile and burn when the snow flies. As you open the space up around your cabin there are less bugs and more sun/air.
    Nothing is fool proof but if fire fighters see you have made an effort the chances are better they will too.
    Not sure if any agency has a site visit program for the firewise program. Anyone know?

    Quote Originally Posted by Longkj View Post
    Thanks for the reply everyone! I am lucky to have a such a great place to spend quality time with my family.

    I think its mostly to the idea that I respect the other properties around me and I want to protect my investment.

    From other research I've come up with I think I'm going start clearing trees that can fall on the cabin and clearing old dead logs that were cut and left over from the previous owner (cleaning up). The area that I am in is THICK. There is a ton of old mans beard, spruce, birch, and cottonwood. I have some work cut out for me but, it sure will be nice to have plenty of firewood for the cabin during the next real southcentral winter.

    Also, if you have a cabin on the chase or freeman trails dont hesitate to PM me if you need anything. Good neighbors are good to have!

    Thanks again!

    LongKJ

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    Quote Originally Posted by DRIFTER_016 View Post
    For the trees I leave standing I use lopping shears to cut off all the lower branches from about 6' down to the ground.
    Helps stop ground fires from getting up into the trees.
    The shears work good, but I also bought a hand operated long handle pruning saw. I can reach way up there for the hanging branches. I also will put a long bar on one of my smaller Stihl chain saws. They will bolt right up, and the saw can pull the longer chain. The main reason Stihl recommends shorter bar lengths on the smaller saws is because the oiler doesn't put out as much oil, but for doing a little limbing that really isn't a problem. I have run 36" bars on my 026 for that purpose.
    Hunt Ethically. Respect the Environment.

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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Longkj.......your message box is full.

    Just thought I'd let you know as I tried to pm you.....
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by otternorth View Post
    Not sure if any agency has a site visit program for the firewise program. Anyone know?
    Depends on where you live, and the current budget situation. In years past different DOF Areas, VFD's and other fire protection orgs have offered site visits/consults. Contact your local DOF Area Forester or Fire Management Officer, or your local fire department and inquire. Given the current State budget situation, I imagine some of these programs may be under the axe...
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    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by otternorth View Post
    Not sure if any agency has a site visit program for the firewise program. Anyone know?
    Here in Yellowknife the natural resources guys will come if asked and tell you what if anything they think needs to be done to Fire Smart your property. Don't know if they offer that in Alaska.

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    tried to pm you but your mail box is full

    Quote Originally Posted by Longkj View Post
    Thanks for the reply everyone! I am lucky to have a such a great place to spend quality time with my family.

    I think its mostly to the idea that I respect the other properties around me and I want to protect my investment.

    From other research I've come up with I think I'm going start clearing trees that can fall on the cabin and clearing old dead logs that were cut and left over from the previous owner (cleaning up). The area that I am in is THICK. There is a ton of old mans beard, spruce, birch, and cottonwood. I have some work cut out for me but, it sure will be nice to have plenty of firewood for the cabin during the next real southcentral winter.

    Also, if you have a cabin on the chase or freeman trails dont hesitate to PM me if you need anything. Good neighbors are good to have!

    Thanks again!

    LongKJ

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    Member Longkj's Avatar
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    I didnt know there was a limit to messages... My bad! Please send me a PM if you would like.

    LongKJ

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    Member Longkj's Avatar
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    Its taken care of! PM me if you would like.

    LongKJ

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