Home and Community Safety & Health Safety

Put more space between homes and sheds, wildfire experts say


To determine how far away from homes sheds should be placed, National Institute of Standards and Technology researchers burned sheds near target structures at varying distances.

Photo: R. Wilson/National Institute of Standards and Technology

Keeping sheds at least 10 to 15 feet away from your home can help prevent wildfires from spreading, according to experts from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and other groups.

In a series of experiments, researchers burned wooden and steel sheds of up to 64 square feet near target structures. They found that moving the shed 15 feet from the home, from 10 feet, reduced the amount of heat energy that passes through a surface – the home, in this case – by a factor of more than three.

The researchers say the results show that “even small changes in the relative positions of structures can have significant effects in terms of limiting fire spread.”

Alex Maranghides, the report’s lead author and a fire protection engineer at NIST, said that because the experiments were conducted on flat ground using new materials, the suggested distances are “absolute minimums.” More separation is recommended for homes built on slopes or made of older construction material.

“We really want to encourage homeowners to not only think about the spacing between their shed and their home, but also the shed and their neighbor’s home,” Maranghides said in a video accompanying the report. “The last thing we want to do is just push fuels away from one building and put them against another building.”

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