Incorporating fire safe concepts into residential landscaping is one of the most important ways you can help defend your home against wildfires.
When Mother Nature tosses you bone dry conditions and unpredictable weather in the peak of California fire season, it’s best to stay on your toes. While no landscaping is fireproof, we’ve compiled the top ways homeowners can use landscaping and landscaping design to help defend against wild fires. It’s not just about selecting plants that look beautiful, it’s about strategically placing and properly maintaining the landscape so it helps you combat the curveballs of Mother Nature.
The Two-Zone Guideline
A gorgeous landscape design with superior zone defense skills can provide you more time when you’re up against a wild fire. However, two lines of defense is better than one. According to the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources’, there are two-zones that surround your house that can offer the highest level of defense.
Photo Courtesy of CAL FIRE
Zone 1: This is the area within 30 feet of your house that gives firefighters room to fight a blaze. In this 30-foot zone you’ll want to incorporate harder landscaping such as, flagstone, gravel, pavers all within the first 4 feet out from your house. Then, plant low growing and less dense foundation shrubs, like azaleas (more on this in #2). Keep trees away from your house.
Zone 2: This area extends a total of 100 feet from your home. In this zone, trees and shrubs should be thinned and opened up by removing branches close to the ground. A fire can climb a tree like a ladder, so branches should be cleared from 6-15 feet if possible. Zone 2 is a good place to also consider installing wide paths, which can act as firebreaks.
Planting Fire Resistant Plants
No landscaping is fireproof, however there are plants and grasses that are fire-resistant and will give you more time against a raging fire.
- Avoid incorporating plants with stems that contain wax, terpenes, or oils, which are very flammable. Green fire fodder includes junipers, hollies, eucalyptus, and pines.
- Fire-resistant foundation plantings are azaleas, boxwoods, hydrangeas, and burning bushes (ironic, right?). Succulents, like sedum, have high water content making them less flammable.
Using Hard Surfaces
Hardscaping has a number of benefits. It’s easy to maintain, adds architectural appeal to your outdoor spaces and is fire safe. A wide concrete driveway, for example, can protect the front of your house. Less flammable mulch options are gravel, decorative rock, or bark-and-rock combinations.
Whether you’re taking on a small-scale outdoor task like edging your planters or renovating your deck or patio, choose hard surfaces to literally build fire safety into the fabric of your outdoor space.
Maintain a Manicured Lawn
Leaves, branches and weeds can burn quickly and also help push the fire through A manicured lawn and well-maintained yard deprive flames of fuel.
- Keep grass short and irrigated.
- Clean up leaves, branches, and dead plants, which burn quickly.
- Prune dead tree branches.
- Remove weeds, especially those taller than 6 inches.