Mindin’ the Gutters: A simple step can make a huge difference in wildfire safety

Blog Post created by laurenbackstrom Employee on Feb 27, 2012

Fire season will soon be upon us, and as the Firewise Advisor for Region Southwest 2, and a Perry Park (CO) Firewise Committee member, I’d like to share a simple, inexpensive tip you and your neighbors can act upon as you start thinking about ways to add wildfire safety to your spring cleaning calendar.

Did you know that one of the worst and most easily overlooked wildfire exposures are pine needles in our gutters?  All it takes is an ember (fire brand) landing in a gutter full of needles and POOF!, the house catches on fire. Fire brands can also be lofted into a neighborhood from a fire front up to a mile away.  When enough needles accumulate in the gutter, one fire brand can ignite them and burn long enough to catch the sub-roofing materials on fire underneath your asphalt, concrete tile or metal shingles. Incidentally, this was one of the causes of home loss during the Cerro Grande Fire that ran through Los Alamos in 2000. 

Therefore folks, it’s time to get our minds in the gutter and start cleaning them out.  And while you’re up there, don’t forget about the valleys, peaks, nooks above the skylights, and areas around the chimney. What better time than now to get outside while most areas of the country are experiencing warmer than normal temperatures and a string of sunny days.


How to start? Check out the local handymen in your area who can assist you. Landscaping or gutter cleaning companies can also help. Also, check with your window cleaners.  They may offer this service at a small extra charge.  If you prefer to tackle the job on your own, keep safety in mind when handling a ladder, get a partner to help and use gloves and a mask to protect your hands and face.

Want to learn more about landscape and home maintenance? Check out our “information and resources” section on the Firewise website. What are some of the Firewise activities you’ve got planned for the spring? Share your stories with our audience. We look forward to hearing from you!

-Keith Worley