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Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Preparing Fire Safe Landscaping

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Preparing Fire Safe Landscaping

Fire safety around the home continues to be a hot topic for rural and suburban homeowners and gardeners alike.  As the number of homes destroyed by raging wildfires continues to increase. Building in the wildland/urban interface—that space where nature is pushed aside to make way for people—are especially vulnerable if fire safety is not factored in at every stage of planning and development.

Embers area also known as flying firebrands are blown on by the wind ahead of the flame front and are a major wildfire threat. Firebrands can travel great distances and lodge in the corners and crevices of a home or ignite an overgrown landscape crowding close to or around the home. Even a home sited in acres of parking lot is vulnerable to flying firebrands.

Designing homes with common fireproofing features like fire-resistant surfaces and finishes, minimizing roof eaves, removing overhanging decks and fencing, and avoiding dense, invasive, or poorly maintained landscaping is critical to fire safety.

Landscaping for Resilience and Safety

The fire-safe garden and landscaping can be a rich and colorful experience, offering year-round interest and beauty while doubling as an important tool in the fight against wildfires. The purpose of a fire-safe landscape is two-fold:

  1. Reduce flammable material closest to the home. Flying firebrands will have little purchase in a green landscape composed of low-fuel volume plants. In the absence of the homeowner or a fire crew, a landscape of fire-resistant plants can help to slow the spread of fire around the home.

  2. Maintain open space around the home to allow firefighters and their equipment to safely operate without having to deal with masses of nearby burning material.

Fire-Safe Dos and Don’ts

DO:

  • Limb up trees 10 feet or more above the ground within the first 100 feet of the home.

  • Open up and exaggerate spaces between the natural landscape and cultivated plantings.

  • Remove old, dried-out, or drought-stressed specimens in favor of healthy, strong plants and clear dead material from mature trees and shrubs.

  • Control invasive weeds by keeping soil covered with mulch, gravel, groundcovers, bulbs, and wildflowers.

  • Keep areas closest to the house free of weeds, litter, and woodpiles and keep these areas mulched with gravel or other nonflammable materials.

  • Irrigate plants close to structures within the first 30 feet of the home—the so-called Lean, Clean, and Green Zone—to keep foliage moisture levels high in summer and fall.

    1. For the lean, clean and green area, “lean” indicates that only a small amount of flammable vegetation, if any, is present. “Clean” means there is no accumulation of dead vegetation or flammable debris within the area. “Green” denotes that plants within this area are kept healthy, green and irrigated during fire season. For most homeowners, the lean, clean and green area is the residential landscape. This area usually has irrigation, contains ornamental plants and is routinely maintained.

  • Reinvigorate shrubs and perennials with regular pruning and remove old plants with dense masses of dry growth.

  • Choose built-in hardscape features like seat walls and low benches in place of flammable wood or plastic patio furniture.

DON’T:

  • Remove low-growing herbs and leaf duff to expose bare soil that encourages invasive weed growth.

  • Clear-cut areas down to bare soil, which promotes erosion and weed growth.

  • Replace native vegetation with highly flammable non-native plants such as juniper, pine, and tall ornamental grasses.

Source:  NFPA / Firewise