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Firescaping

I live in a forested area that is susceptible to wildfires. The wildfires raging in Southern California have me concerned about landscaping my yard in a manner that is safe. I have heard that there are plants that are less flammable than others. Is this true?

Landscaping to help protect your home from wildfire damage, or firescaping, is a growing trend. The idea is that through plant placement, upkeep and selection you can help prevent the spread of fire from the surrounding landscape to your home.

The area around your home is broken down into defensive spaces. The home zone begins at the edge of your house and goes out 6 feet. The yard zone picks up at 6 feet out from your home and continues out another 30 feet. Next is the brush and screen zone, which covers an additional 45 feet. And then there is the woodland zone, which begins at 75 feet from the edge of the home zone and continues on to 100 feet.

Each of the defensive spaces should be landscaped according to fire suppression guidelines.

Plant selection is also an important element in firescaping. Some plants are less flammable than others. Plants such as dogwood, viburnum, redbud, sycamore, magnolia, beautyberry, oaks, red maple, wild azalea, sweetgum, coontie, winged elm, black cherry, persimmon, wild plum, sugarberry, Florida soapberry, fringe tree, ferns, wild olive, blue beech, penstemons, salvias and sparkleberry are recommended. Succulents have proven to be the highly fire resistant as well.

Avoid using these plants close to your home: saw palmetto, wax myrtle, yaupon holly, red cedar, acacia, cypress, pines, eucalyptus, juniper, ornamental grasses, Carolina jasmine, bougainvillea and gallberry within 30 feet of your home. Plants high in aromatic oils should also be used with caution.

To really see any benefit from firescaping your property should be well maintained by doing such things as properly pruning trees and shrubs, removing dead plant material from the ground and keeping grass and weeds mowed. And make sure that your home is easily accessed by emergency vehicles.

Now, I’ve just touched on a few of the basic ideas behind concept. For more information about firescaping visit the Firewise website at www.firewise.org and the Firesafe Council website at www.firesafecouncil.org.