How To Protect Your Home From Fire By Modifying Landscaping



It’s a fight: We love our gardens, but we know that some of this lush landscaping can put our homes and neighborhoods at risk during wildfire season.

While nothing can stop a house from burning if a fire is big enough, taking action now can help minimize a fire, avoid bringing it to your doorstep, and at the very least, avoid fueling the fire. .

The Bay Area Newspaper Group recently hosted a webinar with Doug Mosher of Oakland Community Preparedness and Response and Marilyn Saarni, Contra Costa master gardener and skilled rescuing professional, who spoke about steps to protect and prepare for a wilderness season. forest fires that appear to be both cyclical and ongoing.

The good news, say Mosher and Saarni, is that you don’t have to do it all at once. Divide it into manageable sections and do what you can.

Here are the highlights of the session and the answers to some of the questions posed. Watch the full webinar here.


Fire safety officials have identified areas where homeowners who live in high fire risk areas must provide 100 feet of defensible space around their home. But Mosher and Saarni say that’s sound advice for all Bay Area residents. Think of it like this:

Zone 0, the embers resistant zone, extends 5 feet from your home. This area requires the strictest forest fire fuel reduction. The idea is to prevent embers, which arrive long before the flames, from igniting materials near your house and setting it ablaze.

Zone 1 is the “Lean, Clean, Green Zone, which spans 30 feet.”

And Zone 2, which is 30 to 100 feet from buildings, structures, and decks – or up to your property line – is the “fuel cutback zone.”

Considerations on zone 0

For Zone 0, the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection recommends using landscaping, including gravel, pavers, concrete and non-combustible mulch. Bark mulches should not be included in this area.

Q. Which mulch is best for protective use?

A. Mulch is defined as anything that covers the soil. Organic or natural mulch may be best for your garden, as it nourishes your soil as it decomposes, but rocks and other non-combustible mulches serve other purposes, including helping to hold back the soil. soil moisture and prevent weed growth.

You can use compost to replace the mulch, as long as it doesn’t contain a lot of large wood chips.

Shredded redwood, also known as gorilla hair, and cedar bark are highly flammable and should not be used.

When looking at Zone 0, clear out dead and dying weeds, grass, plants, shrubs, trees, branches, and plant debris including leaves, needles, cones, and bark.

Check your roof, gutters, decks, porches and stairs for debris and prune any branches that are within 10 feet of your chimney.

Plants should be limited to low-growing, non-woody options that are properly watered and maintained.

Q. But I thought I was supposed to reduce water use during drought…

A. Concentrate your irrigation on this area and your trees.

Considerations for Zone 1

If you have patio furniture or combustible planters on your patio, reduce the number from several to a few. Any firewood or stored wood should be moved to Zone 2.

Replacing wooden fences, gates, and arbors with non-combustible alternatives will also help protect your home, as will removing hedges and large trees near your home, which can direct the fire straight to your door.

Boats and recreational vehicles should also be moved out of Zone 1.

Q. What are some good plants to grow in this area, and which should we avoid?

A. All plants will burn if a fire is hot enough, but some plants are slower to ignite, which could be the difference between adding fuel to a fast moving fire and slowing its pace so firefighters have a better time. chance to turn it off.

On the “do not grow” list are pines, junipers, palms that are not regularly cleaned of dry fronds, hemlock, California berry, cypress, eucalyptus, manzanita, coyote, pampas grass, beige oak, black sage and rosemary.

Recommended plants include aloe, bush anemone, California poppy, California red bud, common lippia, coreopsis, cotoneaster, creeping thyme, fuchsia, lamb’s ear, lantana, lavender, lilac, monkey flower and ornamental strawberry.

Approved trees include ash, beech, citrus, elm, ironwood, maple, and oak.

Other recommended herbs are Rhododendron, Cistus, Sage, Company Garlic, Yarrow, Yellow Ice Plant, and Yerba Buena.

Look for plants that generally have a high moisture content, larger leaves, and that grow lower than the ground. Their leaves and stems contain less sap and resin, making them slower to burn. Deciduous trees, which shed their leaves each fall, are generally more fire resistant than conifers.

Considerations for Zone 2

For Zone 2, keep your lawn and annual grasses at a maximum height of 4 inches, and create horizontal and vertical spaces between shrubs and trees to reduce the chance of fire spreading from one to the other.

Exposed wood piles must have a minimum of 10 feet of clearance, that is, to bare ground, in all directions.

Q. Isn’t it good for oaks and other trees to leave fallen leaves underneath?

A. Yes, this is the recommended practice for oaks and some other trees, but in our dry climate, leaf litter can be extremely flammable. You can leave some of it – up to 3 inches deep – in zone 2, but not in zones 0 and 1.

How you plant it is just as important as what you plant. To help prevent the spread of forest fires, plant in small groups instead of large ones, leaving clear spaces between them.

Fire travels faster on slopes than on flat surfaces, so keeping tree height low by pruning or planting smaller types of trees in this area is important.

Maintaining your garden, pruning dead wood, pulling weeds, and keeping plants tidy are also essential in forest fire protection.

Q. Where can I get more information on fire evacuation and emergency preparedness?

A. Your fire protection district can help you, and Oakland Community Readiness and Response offers more than a dozen guides on emergency preparedness, landscaping tips and plant guides to

To find out if you live in an area at high risk of forest fires, consult the maps the California Office of the State Fire Marshal,


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.