Protect your home from outdoor fires

E wātea ana tēnei whārangi ki te reo Māori
Tirohia ki te reo Māori

Although you may not use fire, other people’s fires can threaten your home. There's a lot you can do as a homeowner to protect your property from other peoples fires.

Risks to your home

A home can burn down in three ways:

 1. Embers

Embers are the leading cause of home losses.

Embers from fires are carried to homes by wind. They can travel kilometres from a large fire and land on or near a house, where they ignite flammable material.

Embers will settle in areas around your home, often where leaves and other windblown material gathers. Some other examples of areas around the house that can ignite from embers are:

  • Hessian door mats
  • Leaf build up in roof gutters
  • Open windows, doors or vents
  • Under house where flammable material is stored
  • Underneath decks
  • Outdoor furniture covers

Make sure your house is clear of flammable materials like these to reduce the risk of ember fires.

2. Ground Fire

Ground fires are typically fires that burn through low vegetation such as dry grass on the ground.

These fires can burn a house down by:

  • Burning through uninterrupted fuel (like tall dry grass) right up to the house
  • Burning along attachments to a house, such as fences, decks, garden edging or trellis

Ground fires will burn faster upslope or downwind.

Remember, if it’s attached to the house, its part of the house.

3. Radiant Heat

Fires produce a lot of radiant heat that can pre-heat and ignite the flammable parts of a home.

Make sure there are no large heat sources near your house, such as:

  • Wood piles
  • Vehicles
  • Large trees

How to protect your home

Unlike floods, hurricanes or earthquakes, there are simple and often inexpensive ways to make your home safer and increase its chances of surviving a fire.

The home and everything up to 60 meters surrounding it will determine if a fire can burn your house down. Start with your home and work your way out. Remove the hazards closest to your home first. Remember, it's the little things that can burn your home down.

Here are some tips for keeping your house fire safe:

  • Keep gutters clean during summer.
  • Put away outdoor furniture covers when not in use.
  • Change your doormat to a non-flammable one.
  • Enclose decks so vegetation and debris can’t collect, and embers can't enter.
  • Screen any vents.
  • Don’t store flammable material under or against your house or deck.
  • Keep areas that collect debris free over summer months.

Start at the home and work your way out

  • If you have vegetation against your house, consider removing it or replacing plants with less flammable species.
  • Screen vents and close in decks to ensure embers can’t be blown into these areas.
  • Use stone, cement, tiles and green grass to create a 'clear zone' around your house so surface fires can’t reach your house.
  • Keep lawns watered and green during the summer months.
  • Prune tree branches to a height of 2 meters or more so ground fire can’t ignite them.
  • Remove all trees, long grass, shrubs and logs branches, twigs and needles within 10 meters of your house, as they are fuel for fire.
  • Thin trees (with 3-6 meters between crowns) for at least 30 meters from house, this reduces how far and fast a fire can spread.
  • Ensure your house number is easy for emergency services to find.
  • Make sure your driveway is wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicles (at least 4 x 4 meters).

If it’s attached to your house its part of your house

  • When building or renovating, consider using fire retardant or non-flammable materials, such as corrugated iron roofs, metal fences and double-glazing.
  • Store firewood 10 meters or more from the house.

Work with your neighbours

If you live closer than 30 meters from your neighbor, it will pay to talk to them. What occurs on their property will impact on yours.

Check out our guide to your community responsibility for more information.