When looking back at the recent destructive fires in the Western U.S., a number of homes were saved as a result of the owners’ careful pruning and fire-safe landscaping techniques that protected their homes.
What You Can Do
- Take out the “ladder fuels”– vegetation that serves as a link between grass and treetops. It can carry fire to a structure or from a structure to vegetation.
- Maintain a well-pruned and watered landscape to serve as a green belt and protection against fire. Prune all trees up to 6 ft. to 10 ft. from the ground.
- You’ll want to assess your risk– find out about the fire history in your neighborhood and make sure you’re clear about your property’s boundaries and contours.
- Assess the overall terrain and things like prevailing winds, native vegetation and seasonal weather
- Stack firewood at least 30 feet from your home and store flammable materials in metal containers at least 30 feet away from structures and wooden fences.
- Always install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long-life smoke alarms.
Choose Plants for Fire-Safe Landscaping
All sorts of factors go into determining which plants are appropriate for a fire-safe landscape: things like how much water and salt they retain (which is good) or if they contain a lot of aromatic oils or tend to drop a lot of matter (not so good).
You’ll want to use the zone concept. Zone 1 is closest to the structure; Zones 2-4 move progressively further away.
- Zone 1. This well-irrigated area encircles the structure for at least 30 feet on all sides, providing space for fire suppression equipment in the event of an emergency. Plantings should be limited to carefully spaced fire-resistant species.
- Zone 2. Fire-resistant plant materials should be used here. Plants should be low-growing, and the irrigation system should extend into this section.
- Zone 3. Place low-growing plants and well-spaced trees in this area, remembering to keep the volume of vegetation (fuel) low.
- Zone 4. This furthest zone from the structure is a natural area. Think selectively here, and remove highly flammable vegetation.
- Eliminate small trees and plants growing under trees. They allow ground fires to jump into tree crowns.
- Space trees 30 feet apart and prune to a height of 8 to 10 feet
- Place shrubs at least 20 feet from any structures and prune regularly.
- Plant the most drought-tolerant vegetation within three feet of your home and adjacent to structures to prevent ignition.
- Provide at least a 10- to 15-foot separation between islands of shrubs and plant groups to effectively break-up continuity of vegetation.
- Landscape your property with fire-resistant plants and vegetation to prevent fire from spreading quickly.