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Fire-Wise Landscaping: Gardening with Wildfire Preparedness in Mind

In certain states like California, wildfire can be a big concern in some areas and if you live in a State Responsibility Area, in a very high fire hazard zone, you as a homeowner are responsible for making sure that your home is in compliance with California's building and fire codes. That means you need to be proactive in protecting your home from wildfire by creating a defensible space of 100 feet around the home. Even if you don't live in a very high fire hazard zone, you may want to consider doing some landscaping that could reduce the chances of your home being damaged by wildfire.

Create a Fire Safety Zone

More houses burn due to embers than due to contact from flames. Burning embers can be carried by wind and come into contact with flammable substances like dead branches, dry fallen leaves and pine needles and set a home on fire. If you are concerned that your home may be vulnerable to wildfire, create a fire safety zone around your house. Rake up debris, dead vegetation and leaves on the property. Make sure trees around your home don’t overhang onto the roof. Remove dead limbs from trees and remove lower tree branches to a height of at least 10 feet above the ground. Tree limbs and branches should be kept at least 15 feet from your chimney or stove pipe outlet. If there are vines growing on your walls, consider taking them down. And make sure your lawn is mowed regularly.

Clean Gutters and Chimney

If it's wildfire season, check your gutters to make sure they're not hiding debris that could catch a spark and ignite your roof. Dead leaves and other debris like twigs, pine cones, and fir needles are all highly flammable so clean your gutters thoroughly. If you don't feel comfortable climbing on ladders to access the gutters, hire a contractor to do it for you. Also, you should have your chimney cleaned yearly, and if you haven't done it yet, wildfire season is an excellent time to get this chore checked of your list.

Water Needs

Keep your garden well watered in the spring and summer to assure plants have high moisture content. If you're worried about wildfires, it's prudent to think about what your water needs might be in an emergency. At a minimum, you need a garden hose that's long enough to reach any part of your home or any other structures on your property. Consider installing additional exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and more outlets at a distance from the home.

Choose Fire-Wise Plants For Your Home

While no plants are fireproof, some are considered "fire-wise" or "fire-resistant." These plants are the safest to have growing near your home. On the other hand, some trees, grasses and shrubs are considered flammable plants. Trees considered flammable include acacia, yew, California bay, and evergreens like Douglas fir, cypress, palm, pine, and spruce. Grasses and shrubs that are flammable include juniper, California sagebrush, laurel sumac, Spanish broom, rosemary, pampas grass, and California buckwheat. If you are choosing plants with fire hazards in mind, avoid those on the flammable list. There are many fire-resistant flowers and shrubs you can install; they include asters, hollyhocks, irises, geraniums, day-lilies, daisies, tulips, polygonum, clematis, cotoneaster, privet, buckthorn, rhododendrons, and various euphorbia species. Fire-wise trees include maple, beech, aspen, poplar, honey locust, ash, cherry, apple, willow and oak. When you're planting, remember that wood-based mulch is a potential fire hazard and don't put it within 5 feet of the house. Avoid clumping plants and shrubs together; spacing between plants can slow down the spread of fire. And be sure to remove all dead vegetation throughout the fire season, and keep the garden well watered.

If you've decided that you need help with fire-wise landscaping or with the pruning and maintenance needed to create a fire safety zone around your house, use our Services Directory to find top Gardening and Landscaping Contractors. And use our specially designed system of reviews to evaluate the work of your contractor once the job is done.

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