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Additional Firewise USA/ National Fire Protection Association Documentation



Summary: This past October, the CAPE HOA hosted a presentation and neighborhood assessment from the San Juan Fire District's Firewise Team. In light of the devasting Maui fires, we thought it prudent to start bringing Firewise- related topics up to the community.

Please find below a summary of the SJFD's Firewise team's very important messages and recommendations to us.


  • TRIAGE: Wildland Firefighters use a triage approach when fighting a large wildland fire involving multiple homes in a community. Firefighter are trained to recognize the risk involved and time needed to protect a home from an approaching wildfire; they quickly identify the home that may be saved vs one that would be hazardous to try to save.  Homeowners who have created safe zones and have prepared their home to withstand an approaching wildfire as outlined in the Firewise information, will maximize their chance of having a home that survives a fire.  Homes that have a combustible-free perimeter around their home are more likely to be saved and these homes are also safer for the firefighter.
  • DEBRIS FREE PERIMITER: Keep the 0 - 5 ft perimeter around your home, garage or other buildings free of debris, wood chips, dry vegetation, and overhanging branches. This area includes the roof and gutters.
  • 5 - 30 FT ZONE: Keep the 5 - 30 ft zone around your home and other structures well maintained: mow or weed-eat grasses, thin and or hedge trim bushes, and thin trees so that spacing is about 1 ft per 1 inch diameter of the tree (i.e., a 12-inch diameter tree should have a space of 12 ft to the next tree). Note that flame heights can reach up to 2 1/2 times the height of the burnable fuel (2 feet of burning grass can generate a 5-foot flame). Keep wood piles outside this zone especially in the summer. In the summer firewood should be covered or kept at least 30 ft from the home.
  • IMPORTANCE OF A 100-FT HOSE: Keep a 100-foot water hose available at every outdoor hose bibb, spigot, or valve. It is essential to be able to reach every part of your house/ buildings with a hose and nozzle.  A 100 ft garden hose at each end of your home should suffice for most properties. Having access to water can help you or your neighbor to save your home. Remember that fire can move in three different ways: heat radiation, windblown fire embers, and overground. Water can cool the siding of your home, it can put out spot fires caused by embers, and it can soak the ground around your home to stop the spread of a ground fire. Fire can travel easily through grass and dry moss, it can smolder within dead stumps and roots, it can also start up within a large anthill.
  • IMPORTANCE OF A WORKING FIRE EXTINGUISHER:  Keep a working fire extinguisher in your home and know where it is and how to use it. Fires can start at the stove tops, at electric heaters, wood stoves, at outlets, and in clothes dryers. Keep all electrical appliances and connections free of dust, debris, and combustibles. A community or HOA can host a fire extinguisher practice session so that everyone can get the feel of what is involved with using a fire extinguisher safely and effectively.
  • WATER CAN: Keep a water can or water hose nearby when working with gasoline engines, outdoor cooktops, and propane torches. Fires have been started from mower blades hitting rocks and causing a spark, and from cars parked over grass.
  • SMOKE ALARMS: Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms save lives. Install smoke/ CO alarms in every living space, test them and/or change the battery once a year.
  • LANDSCAPE THINNING: Ocean spray can grow and spread quickly if not maintained, the sticky oils in this and many plants are considered a highly combustible ladder fuel.  Keep landscaping thinned and well maintained; homeowners can prune ocean spray to create a low hedge and always rake up the debris to avoid build up.  Juniper and Salal plants are similarly flammable and hazardous when not maintained.


  • HOUSE ADDRESS NUMBERS: Keep house numbers posted and clear; 3-inch reflective numbers and signage are easily seen day and night.
  • FIRE HYDRANTS: Keep fire hydrants clear, accessible, and well-marked. The pavement just adjacent to a hydrant can be marked with a blue reflector to increase visibility at night.
  • ROAD MAINTEANCE: Maintain all the roads in the community. The width of the road and the clearance overhead must be maintained to allow quick access for our heavy 8 + feet wide fire engines, trucks, tenders, and emergency medical vehicles. We highly recommend a minimum of 14 ft height clearance over the entire width of all the roadways. Driveways that cross over water mains/lines should also meet this standard.  Roads are critical for conveying fire trucks and offering accessibility during an emergency response; driveways that are not reliable can risk damage to water line infrastructure.
  • DRIVEWAYS: Ensure that driveways are clearly marked and are clear of low hanging branches. Clear branches over driveways up to a minimum of 14ft high.
  • GRAVEL PERIMETER AROUND THE HOME: Harden your home and defend against fire by spreading small gauge gravel around the perimeter of your home, garage and other buildings - 12 inches is a good start. Keep a 5-foot area around the home free and clear of debris.
  • CLEAR ROOFS & GUTTERS: Keep the roof and gutters clear of pine needles, leaves and other debris.
  • TREE THINNING & PRUNING: Thin and prune trees to avoid having growth that is too dense to be able to access the home in the case of a fire.  It is important to be able to see through the trees.
  • TREE LIMBING:  Limb and prune branches that are within 13 ft of the ground. If a tree limb is to be left as low and overhanging, keep the grass short and the area raked clean of debris. Best to not have trees overhang buildings, but if so, keep a 13-foot clearance between the roof and the lower branches.  Prune back limbs that overhang your chimney.
  • CLEAR UNDER DECKS: Avoid storing debris and highly combustible material under decks, or leaning next to the house, sheds, or a garage.
  • COVER WOOD PILES: Cover wood piles during the summer if they are close to a building with a fireproof cover or a roof with sides.
  • MAINTAIN FOOTPATHS: Maintain footpaths and trails around and through larger properties to give firefighters alternative access routes.

Additional Firewise USA/ National Fire Protection Association Documentation

About us

We are a homeowners association established to manage and maintain the Cape San Juan neighborhood on San Juan Island in WA state.

Contact us

Cape San Juan Homeowners Association

P.O. Box 1825

Friday Harbor, WA 98250


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