A firebreak is an area cleared of vegetation in order to keep a fire from spreading past it. Often these are created before there is a fire in high-risk areas such as chaparral. They are usually placed on ridgetops so the fire can only go downhill from where it is. They are ugly, but somewhat affective. Firebreaks are often hastily made in front of a headfire to stop it from progressing, often in association with backfires. This often works, but if the fire is severe enough it can just jump the firebreak and render the whole thing a waste of time.