DNR FIELD NOTES
April 29, 2010
Techniques for Creating Fire-Resistant Landscaping
By Chuck Turley
Washington State Forester
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Ah… the sounds of lawn mowers, trimmers, and leaf blowers! Yard work is inevitable and a sure sign that warm days are here. And, although our mountains have had recent snow, we still need to remember that wildfire season is creeping up on us. So now is the time to consider fire-resistant landscaping techniques that can help to keep your home safe, especially if you live close to the forest.
Fire-resistant landscaping can be both functional and beautiful. Regardless of whether you are in the design phase or just doing yard maintenance, remember fire prevention is really a matter of the right plant in the right place. Here are some tips to follow:
- Use plants with high moisture content (deciduous) nearest the home;
- Trim tree branches away from the home;
- Keep vegetation, including the lawn, around the home low and green;
- Limb trees at least six feet above the ground to reduce the chances that a fire on the ground will spread into tree tops – this is especially important if your property has lots of trees;
- Keep decorative ground covers such as beauty bark away from direct contact with your home – bark and wood chip ground covers can smolder; and
- Trim back trees and shrubbery around structures so that fire crews and their vehicles will have safe access in an emergency.
Trees, shrubs, grasses and other vegetation provide fuel for fires. Reducing or even eliminating vegetation close to structures is a way to create defensible space against a wildfire.
If you are designing or updating your home’s landscaping, think of ways to incorporate firebreaks (things that don’t burn) into your landscape design. A defensible space doesn’t have to be an eyesore. Some examples of firebreaks are: concrete, brick or gravel walkways, concrete flower box borders or planters, and perhaps water features, such as a pond. Even the backyard swimming pool can serve as a firebreak.
In Washington, numerous communities have received national recognition for their fire prevention efforts through the Firewise Communities USA Program. Many other neighborhoods have completed a wildfire protection plan that can help save lives and property.
In 2009, Western Washington recorded its highest fire danger on July 29 (104 degrees in Olympia.) Statewide, there were 1,044 fires totaling approximately 17,203 acres. We can all do our part to help prevent the spread of these wildfires. For additional tips on how to reduce the risk of wildfire to your community, home and family, log on to www.firewise.org
With Washington’s population rate growing, especially in the forest on the outskirts of our urban areas, it’s important for homeowners to understand how they can protect their homes and property before a wildfire breaks out. The better prepared that you and your community are for a wildfire, the better chance we all have for preventing a catastrophe.
EDITOR: A photograph of Chuck Turley is available on request. A photograph of defensible space also is available on request.
Media Contact: Janet Pearce, Education and Outreach Manager, 360-902-1122, firstname.lastname@example.org