Now that wildfires are such a huge issue everywhere it's a wonder that the word isn't in everyday use.

Such paths, or glades, don't always prevent wildfires, but they sure make the firefighter's job a lot easier.

What are they called?

I've dug up a picture of one; it's from a German page, and the German word for it is "Schneise."

enter image description here

  • 11
    Ricky, You have accepted an answer that is evidenced by votes as being inferior. It would be beneficial to others finding this answer in the future if you'd accept the better answer. That being said, you are within your right to accept whatever you think is better.
    – TecBrat
    Jan 5 '16 at 16:51
  • 4
    It's a firebreak.
    – Drew
    Jan 5 '16 at 22:26
  • 2
    @Ricky, I recommend you look at TecBrat's comment and reconsider your accepted answer. Jan 6 '16 at 0:12
  • 2
    Hi, Ricky. I think they are right. It would be better to accept the most up-voted answer.
    – user140086
    Jan 6 '16 at 6:16
  • 11
    The accepted answer is. just. wrong. Ricky has had his say, and under the rules of the site apparently it is his right to be wrong. So I'm leaving this comment for the benefit of unfortunate people who may be mislead by the wrong answer he has accepted.
    – Ben
    Jan 6 '16 at 9:25

Although firebreak is the most common term, you could consider using fireroad, fire line or fuel break as suggested by the Wikipedia article.

Fuel break is defined by Natural Resources Conservation Service as:

A strip or block of land on which the vegetation, debris and detrius have been reduced and/or modified to control or diminish the risk of the spread of fire crossing the strip or block of land.

A picture of fuel break:

enter image description here

A picture of fire line:

enter image description here

  • 13
    It wasn't a criticism or call to action. Just an observation. Incidentally, that Wikipedia citation appears to be the only place it is called a Fire Lane other than one obscure reference to BBC Safety guidelines. I assert Fire Lane is so rare a name usage as to be obsolete, rendering this answer, at best, not the most accurate answer.
    – Marv Mills
    Jan 5 '16 at 13:01
  • 4
    @MarvMills The OP is a native English speaker and the word firebreak was posted before I posted this answer. I know firebreak works better, but suggested an alternative. Is firebreak the only answer to the question? I don't think so.
    – user140086
    Jan 5 '16 at 13:04
  • 4
    I've walked on a "fire road" in Virginia. "Fire Lane" definitely has a specific usage in AmE that is different from this, as noted by others. The Wikipedia article for "firebreak" also lists "fire line". I wonder if there is some usage out there where "line" and "lane" have been confused or conflated. Jan 5 '16 at 15:05
  • 10
    A fire road is normally a road to provide access to firefighters in the event of a fire. I've only seen fire lane used in an urban context, where it refers to a road required for firetruck access. Jan 5 '16 at 16:54

Such swaths are called "firebreaks":

firebreak (n.) - a strip of plowed or cleared land made to check the spread of a prairie or forest fire.


  • 9
    This is the most accurate answer, this is used by people not fire lanes +1
    – Kyle
    Jan 5 '16 at 11:54
  • 5
    This might be a US/UK difference, in the UK it's a firebreak. Definitely not a lane or ride, they tend to be cut without regard for travellers' comfort or convenience! Jan 5 '16 at 12:26
  • 26
    @BrianDrummond it's firebreak in the US too. In AmE, a fire lane is the lane in the parking lot next to a big building for fire vehicles.
    – Mitch
    Jan 5 '16 at 12:57
  • 8
    Firebreak is the term I hear in Canada too. As Mitch says fire lane usually refers to a no-parking zone. Jan 5 '16 at 16:32
  • 5
    Australian English uses firebreak too.
    – Scott
    Jan 6 '16 at 3:14

A straight avenue cut through a forest is often called a "ride". I imagine this is because they were once used for people on horseback to ride through the forest. If the purpose is to limit the spread of wildfire, then in Australia we would call it a "firebreak".


Native Oregonian...Fire LINE is NOT obscure in the Pacific Northwest. It is/was most commonly used expression for creating a "line" that hopefully the fire cannot cross. Fire BREAK is used, but Fire LINE is what I have heard used my whole life. Am curious how many "flatlanders" answered this question? "Flatlanders" are what we call people who do not live on or near mountains.

  • +1, and very special thanks to you for the "flatlanders."
    – Ricky
    Jan 6 '16 at 10:22
  • The crews in California that I worked with refer to the activity of making these as "cutting line" or "working on the line."
    – chipbuster
    Jan 6 '16 at 19:53
  • 2
    "Fire line" is not obscure, but I've only ever seen it used to describe temporary firebreaks cut to deal with an active forest fire. Standing firebreaks (which are rare, as forest managers prefer natural breaks such as roads or rivers) are called "firebreaks".
    – Mark
    Jan 6 '16 at 21:16

The term fire belt is in common use in Ireland.


Belt meaning 'surrounding' or 'encircles' as in green belt or asteroid belt

  • Being of Irish ancestry, I find that interesting. I wonder, though: do those fire belts come with fire shoes? If they do, then the need to 'hot foot' it out of there becomes quite understandable. Jan 6 '16 at 2:55
  • @BenjaminHarman indeed it does.
    – Liam
    Jan 6 '16 at 16:09
  • 1
    Excellent! One's shoes must always match one's belt. Being on fire is certainly no excuse for losing all sense of decorum. Jan 6 '16 at 16:21

Generally, such a path is called a swath.


\ˈswäth, ˈswȯth\

a strip left clear by the passage of a mowing machine or scythe. "the combine had cut a deep swathe around the border of the fields"

I'm not sure if there is a specific word for a swath made to prevent wildfires.

  • 1
    Sounds more like harvesting wheat ....
    – Stewart
    Jan 5 '16 at 23:43
  • 3
    @Stewart it's the most general word for a mowed path through an area for whatever purpose.
    – CDM
    Jan 5 '16 at 23:49
  • 2
    @Stewart to mow means to cut down but it is not limited to grass.
    – CDM
    Jan 6 '16 at 11:41
  • 2
    @Stewart If an alien space ship fired a laser down on town X and dragged the laser across town, then there would be a laser-made swath running through the town.
    – CDM
    Jan 6 '16 at 11:49
  • 2
    That wouldn't be the definition you gave above then, would it? There are 2 definitions for swathe. Your alien fits the other: "a broad strip or area of something: vast swathes of countryside | figurative : a significant swathe of popular opinion."
    – Stewart
    Jan 6 '16 at 13:16

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