Built Environment

Defensible Space


Living With Fire is a collaborative effort among federal, state, local firefighting agencies, and resource management agencies. The program is managed by University of Nevada Reno, Extension, an EEO/AA institution.

About Living With Fire

The mission of the Living With Fire Program is to provide recommendations to residents on preparing for wildfire and reducing wildfire threat to homes and communities. Since its inception in 1997, the program has created materials for residents that have been shared and applied to fire-prone regions throughout the country. It provides resources to homeowners, educators, community groups and firefighting professionals to improve defensible space, ensure homes have proper building materials, manage native and non-native vegetation and prepare for evacuation. Through community outreach events, peer-reviewed publications, social media and television and radio interviews, the program team brings the most up-to-date information on wildfire preparedness to Nevada residents and others across the country. 

May is Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month

Illustration depicting a house surrounded by green landscape with flames on the horizon and text that says wildfire knows no boundaris, make yours.

May is Wildfire Awareness Month and this year we are focusing on defensible space. Our theme is “Wildfire Knows No Boundaries, Make Yours.”

All month long we'll be sharing some recommendations to help residents create and maintain defensible space. Starting on May 11 we're excited to bring you "Living With Fire Conversations," a Zoom - Facebook Live series. We'll be chatting with knowledgeable folks about fire weather, public lands, weed control and defensible space.

Tune-in for some tips on wildfire preparedness from the National Weather Service – Reno, NV Energy, BLM Nevada, U.S. Forest Service, a Holbrook Highland Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities chapter leader and UNR Extension’s Urban IPM and pesticide safety coordinator.

Upcoming Events

 

How Living With Fire Can Help

We have many tools available to educators, homeowners, community groups, fire safe councils/fire adapted communities and firefighting professionals to help educate and inform others about mitigating Nevada’s wildfire threat. Presented below are some of the resources available to help make your home and community more likely to survive a wildfire.

be award booklets

Order Living with Fire Materials

If you are interested in ordering any Living With Fire publications, complete the publication order form.

publications available

Customize Publication Files

We have publications available (created in Adobe InDesign) for you to customize for your region. Check out each publication to determine which one meets your needs then contact us to request the files.

display to borrow

Borrow a Display

There are multiple displays that can be reserved for use at community events, Home Owner's Association meetings, fire department/protection districts, activities and many other types of events. Contact us for more information or to request it for your event. Note that transportation is not provided.

borrow ember house

Borrow a Youth Activity

We have two youth activities available for use at your event! Check out each activity to decide which better suits your needs. Please contact us for more information or to request it for your event. Note that transportation is not provided.

building instructions

Create your Own Ember House

The Ember House is a youth activity that promotes wildfire ember awareness for young and old alike. This scaled-down house front features vulnerable spots to embers. If you are interested in creating your own Ember House, please contact us.

attend meetings

Assist with a Meeting or Event

We can assist in scheduling a workshop or presentation to interested groups on a variety of topics – just ask! Use our Contact us online form to discuss how we can help at your next meeting or event.

 
News Articles, Fact Sheets, Reports...
A bundle of golden Crested Wheatgrass in a dry field.
A Homeowner's Guide to Planting Crested Wheatgrass
The following description for planting crested wheatgrass applies to homeowners seeding relatively small areas (less than two acres) and who do not have access to specialized rangeland seeding equipment. For larger planting efforts, contact your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office for suggestions.
Smith, E., Davison, J., Carlos, B. 1999, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-99-96
cheatgrass
A Homeowner’s Guide to Cheatgrass
Cheatgrass, also known as downy brome and bronco grass, is an annual plant native to Europe and Asia. Cheatgrass has a serious environmental impact on Nevada. It dries out very quickly, becoming extremely flammable. This increases the occurrence and intensity of fires in sagebrush areas.
Davison, J. and Smith, E. 2006, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
A plant with green rounded leaves and clusters of small pink and white flowers.
Backyard Native Plants
Identification and treatments of shrubs and ground covers for fire safe landscaping at Lake Tahoe.
Higgins, Lesley V. 2009, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
A bundle of cheatgrass in front of a house
Be Careful! Cheatgrass is extremely flammable!
Dry cheatgrass is one of the most easily ignitable substances on Nevada's rangelands. It is the kindling that fuels many of our wildfires. Once ignited, cheatgrass fires can travel very fast. Be careful! Be prepared!
Smith, Ed, Davison, Jay 2008, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno SP-05-08
A flame from embers igniting a wood shake roof
Be Ember Aware
During a wildfire, thousands of embers can rain down on your roof and pelt the side of your home like hail during a storm. Embers coming into contact with flammable material is the major reason why homes burn from wildfires.By being ember aware and taking action ahead of time, a homeowner can reduce the ember threat.
Smith, Ed, Sistare, Sonya 2005, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno FS-09-05
Choosing the Right Plants for Northern Nevada's High Fire Hazard Areas
The most important person in preventing a house from being destroyed by wildfire is the homeowner. And, it is the actions that a homeowner takes before a fire occurs that are critical. One of the most important “pre-fire” activities that a homeowner can do is the creation of a defensible space.
Smith, E., Skelly, J. 2007, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, EB-07-01
Choosing the Right Plants for Northern Nevada's High Fire Hazard Areas - Lake Tahoe Basin
The latest version has been revised to indicate which plants in this publication are also included on the “TRPA Recommended Native and Adapted Plant List” and which are on the suggested “Accent Plant Guide for Lake Tahoe” list.
Skelly, J., Smith, Ed. 2017, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, SP-17-01
Choosing Turf and Erosion Control Grasses for the Lake Tahoe Basin
Planting grass near homes can control soil erosion and help create fire defensible space. Since the tragic Angora Fire in 2007, many Tahoe residents are re-evaluating their landscaping options for areas close to residences.
Cobourn, J., Skelly, J. 2009, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, SP-09-07
Combine Defensible Space and Best Management Practices (BMP's)
Homeowners at Lake Tahoe need to protect their homes from wildfire. At the same time, they are required to protect Lake Tahoe’s famed water clarity from sediment caused by soil erosion. These goals can be accomplished most efficiently if owners plan their defensible space and their best management practices together.
Cobourn, John 2008, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-08-26
An Ember House structure with ember vulnerabilities highlighted in orange. A trashcan adjacent to the Ember House.
Ember House 3.0 Building Instructions
This is information on how to build an Ember House. The Ember House serves as a youth activity to educate kids on the ember threat of wildfires on homes. There is no one “right way” to build an Ember House. There are a lot of variations out there. Reported below is simply how LWF created theirs.
Smith, E. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP-20
house on fire
Fire Adapted Communities: The Next Step in Wildfire Preparedness
Do you know what it takes to survive a wildfire? A fire adapted communities is a community located in fire-prone area that requires little assistance from firefighters during a wildfire. Residents of these communities accept responsibility for living in a high fire hazard area.
Smith, E., Sistare, S., Nejedlo, G. 2011, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, SP-11-01
Fire Adapted Communities: The Next Step in Wildfire Preparedness, Elko County
Do you know what it takes to survive a wildfire? A fire adapted community is a community located in fire-prone area that requires little assistance from firefighters during a wildfire. Read more about fire adapted communities in the Elko County area.
Smith, E., Sistare, S., Nejedlo, G. 2011, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, SP-16-02
The Angora Fire burns hillsides across Lake Tahoe. Smoke plumes in the air.
Fire Adapted Communities: The Next Step in Wildfire Preparedness. Lake Tahoe Basin
There are proven steps that homeowners can take to improve personal safety and home survival during wildfire. The purpose of this publication is to present these steps and encourage neighbors to work together and with their local fire firefighting agency to take action.
Smith, E., Sistare, S. 2014, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, SP-14-05
Greenstrips: Another Tool to Manage Wildfire
Greenstrips can be used to reduce the opportunity for man-caused fires to start or spread. They can reduce the size of wildfires and increase the effectiveness of the fire fighting effort, which reduces the cost. Greenstrips are also used to protect high value natural resources,
Davidson, J., Smith E. 1997, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-97-36
A house and car completely engulfed in flames
How can I prepare my home and neighborhood for a wildfire?
University experts caution actions taken by homeowners before a fire ever starts play a critical role.
Smith, E. and Andrews, A. 2019, Nevada Today
A wildfire burns brush near a cluster of homes with text: How to Complete a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Nevada Communities
How to Complete a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Nevada Communities
A Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) describes the wildfire hazards and mitigation measures for a community. Completing and implementing a CWPP is an important means for residents of Nevada’s wildfire prone areas to address the wildfire threat.
Smith, E., Sistare, S. 2013, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, SP-13-14
A cluster of homes in Washoe County adjacent to the urban interface with text: How to Complete a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Washoe County Communities
How to Complete a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Washoe County Communities
A Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) describes the wildfire hazards and mitigation measures for a community. Completing and implementing a CWPP is an important means for residents of Washoe County’s wildfire-prone areas to address the wildfire threat.
Smith, E., Sistare, S., Nejedlo, G. 2013, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, SP-13-06
The Governer of Nevada signing a multi-state proclamation with support of Nevadans around him.
Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month County Proclamation Wording
Customize your county proclamation in support of Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month- May 2020.
Roice-Gomes, J. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP-20
snow in the sierras
Nevada's Weather and Climate
Weather and climate are related, but they are not the same. The difference between weather and climate is time. Practically speaking, weather determines which clothes you decide to put on today, but climate determines the type of clothes that are in your closet.
Ormerod, Kerri Jean; McAfee, Stephanie 2017, Extension | Fact Sheet 17-04
Sign up for Emergency Notifications
Local Emergency Notification Systems, commonly known as Reverse Dial, are used by safety officials to send phone calls, emails and texts to a specific area with a prepared message during an emergency.
Kay, M. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
A row of black and white houses with a wildfire approaching in the background. Text saying: Wildfires Happen. Is your community prepared?
Summary Report Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month 2019
Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month (NWAM) 2019 was held May 1–31, with events and activities taking place throughout the state. With the collaboration of partnering agencies, the Living With Fire program educated Nevada residents on minimizing the wildfire impact on communities by taking proactive steps to prepare.
Roice-Gomes, J., Thom, A. 2019, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP 2019
A ponderosa pine trunk and branches
Taking Care of Residential Trees After Wildfire
Many trees can recover after fire, depending on the intensity and duration of the burn and extent of dehydration. After a fire it is important to determine which trees might recuperate and which will need to be removed.
Skelly, J. 2004, Extension | University of Nevada, Carson City/Storey County, FS-04-57
A women rakes leaves on her front lawn. House in the background.
Ten Frequently Asked Questions About Defensible Space
As Nevada communities grow, so does the wildfire threat on homes. The term "defensible space" was coined to describe vegetation management practices aimed at reducing the wildfire threat to homes. This fact sheet addresses some of the frequently asked questions regarding defensible space.
Smith, E. 1996, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-96-39
A pile of mulch burns in a controlled experiment
The Combustibility of Landscape Mulches
Mulch plays an important role in Western residential landscapes. Unfortunately many mulches are combustible, a major drawback when used in home landscapes located in wildfire-prone areas. Using the results from an evaluation of mulch combustibility, recommendations are offered concerning the use of mulches.
Quarles, S., Smith, E. 2011, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, SP-11-04
Thinning and Sanitation: Tools for the management of bark beetles in the Lake Tahoe Basin
From 1994 to 1996, five interstate forest fires in eastern Sierra Nevada forests chronically infested with bark beetles claimed $40 million in housing and property damage, timber loss, and soil stabilization costs.
Donaldson, S., Seybold, S.J. 1998, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-98-42
Men loading juniper bushes into a truck
What did we learn from the Caughlin Fire?
Jamie Roice-Gomes and Ashley Andrews break down 5 lessons learned following the Caughlin Fire
Andrews, A. and Roice-Gomes, J. 2019, Nevada Today
What Grows Back After The Fire
In the aftermath of wildfire, many homeowners are alarmed by the sudden change in appearance of the wildland vegetation surrounding their homes. At this time, a frequently asked question is "Will it grow back?" This fact sheet describes the response of some common northern Nevada rangeland plants to wildfire.
Smith, E., Davidson, J. 1996, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno. FS96-40
WIldfire Evacuation Checklist Information on How to prepare yourself for a quick and safe evacuation
Wildfire Evacuation Checklist
Information on how to prepare yourself, your home, and your family for a quick and safe wildfire evacuation. Be prepared! Please evacuate immediately when asked.
Smith, Ed 2006, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-06-07
Cars driving at night while a wildfire approaches the road
Wildfire Evacuation Checklist (Spanish)
Si su propiedad está en peligro de incendio y usted debe evacuar tenga en consideración las siguientes medidas de seguridad.
Smith, E. 2020, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP-20

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Learn more about the program's team

Christina Restaino
Program Leader & Contact
Jamie Roice-Gomes
Program Leader & Contact
Megan Kay
Program Contact