By Gary Allen Burns

A fuel break involves the thinning of vegetation over an area of land, perhaps a subdivision or community, to slow the spread of a wildfire. Decreasing the amount of vegetation available to the fire reduces the severity risk of the fire. The best location for the break is along a natural firebreak such as a road, which allows easy access for equipment. The break can also follow contour lines. Either way, maintain a minimum width of 60 feet on flat land and 100 feet on slopes.

Within the break, prune large and create a crown spacing of 25-30 feet. Remove ladder fuels such as tall brush and small trees and break up thick areas of brush. Regular maintenance of the breaks is necessary to increase their effectiveness.

A firebreak, on the other hand, is an actual break in the vegetation. It can be a gravel road, a body of water or a bulldozer trail. A ‘green’ firebreak is a break seeded with grasses with a high moisture content, such as winter rye or winter wheat that provide a barrier to the fuel. Wide firebreaks can stop a direct fire, but embers can still travel in the air across the fire line.