JUNE 02, 2005 -- WILLITS, CA: A shaded fuelbreak increases a community's chances of surviving a wildfire. In October 1995 the Guntley Fire east of Ukiah, California, was set by an arsonist; low humidity and northeast winds quickly pushed the fire -- with flamelengths of 30 feet or more -- toward the town. But when the fire reached an area that had been treated by vegetation management in the late 1980s, flamelengths were reduced to 10 feet and the rate of spread slowed.
The fire then reached another fuelbreak created in 1994. Sue Crawford with the local Fire Safe Council said at that point the reduced intensity allowed ground crews to attack it with hand tools and hose lays. The fire was contained and no homes were lost.
As she explained to the Willits News, a shaded fuelbreak is an area where large trees are left in place with at least 70 percent shade canopy remaining, while all flammable debris and ladder fuels are cleared. Dense clumps of resprouted trees are thinned, and the shade from the large tree canopy discourages rapid regrowth of flammable brush and ladder fuels.
"Communities that have had the wisdom to prepare ahead of time for fire have a much better record of survival than those that don't prepare," said Crawford.