Fire Resistant Plants?
An extensive literature search was performed. Studies by government agencies, fire districts, and universities were reviewed. A compilation article was produced that is a common sense and DIY instruction on how make your landscape less prone to fire intrusion. A companion Master Gardener Library Series presentation was prepared and will be presented throughout Sonoma County this Fall. Presentations are scheduled for October 6th at Windsor, October 20th at Petaluma, and October 27th at Sonoma. Please see: http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/?calendar=yes&g=43833 for complete details.
One of the most asked questions from homeowners is, ”What replacement plants can I put in my landscape to make it fire resistant?”. Well, creating a firewise landscape is not Just about the choice of plants.
The following quote sums up our findings from a number of expert opinions:
“Applied to plants, the term “fire resistant” may be misleading. All plants burn under the right conditions. On hot, windy days, when the ground is dry and plants have little moisture in stems and leaves, fire can race through almost any landscape, threatening homes and lives. If there is any defense against fire in landscaping, it is probably through firewise landscape design and maintenance rather than plant selection.” East Bay Municipal Water District: Firescape Updated March 2018
A firewise landscape employs plant spacing that reduces the chance of fire from racing across your landscape. Perform routine maintenance to clean out dead material and control plant size, reduce fire fuel by cutting or removing dry grass and raking up leaf and pine needle debris.
Plants that are low in oil content, high in moisture, properly spaced, and moderate is size are preferred. You can imagine how a single agave focus plant in a rock garden would not provide a good path for fire through your landscape.
So, cut the grass, and create adequate plant spacing - and that may mean removing excess plants. Keep tree canopies trimmed off the ground by at least 6 feet. Be sure that dry grass to shrub to tree to house separation is adequate to reduce the chance of fire spreading to your house.
Let’s be firewise out there – Dennis Przybycien