live in what's called the CHAPARRAL-URBAN INTERFACE. It's literally
the most flammable place on earth. Our safety and the security
of our homes depends on the proper management of planted and
natural vegetation to reduce fire hazard to a reasonable level.
Here are some things you can do to reduce the risk of uncontrolled
wildfire on your property.
the amount of vegetation around your home, you make it easier
for firefighters to protect your property. Thin native vegetation,
allowing individual plants to remain in clumps that are separated
from each other by at least 20 ft. Reduce flammable vegetation
around the house. Cut back tree branches that hang over the
roof. Keep shrubs and trees trimmed to remove low-hanging
branches and deadwood. Cut down weeds.
building materials like stone, brick, adobe and concrete.
Avoid flammable wood structures in the garden. Wood decks
hanging over unkempt vegetation are the worst offender. Decks
and other wood structures must be built to resist fire in
high fire hazard areas; check with your local building department.
Cover decks with approved fire resistant skirting or use concrete
or stone patios instead. Flammable wood fences can act as
fuses in a fire; use chain link fences or masonry walls instead.
Avoid using flammable mulches like bark or wood chips near
the house; use gravel, crushed rock or decomposed granite
are more flammable than others. Conifers like pine, cypress,
cedar and juniper are the worst offenders. Other very flammable
plants include Bougainvillea, pampas grass, Eucalyptus, New
Zealand flax, chamise and many grasses. Any plant will burn,
but plants with lots of water stored in their leaves, or which
contain large quantities of salts, are more resistant to fire.
Examples are succulents, Oleander, Myoporum, lawns and many
low-growing ground covers.
plants are arranged in the landscape is more important than
the kind of plants you use. The ZONE SYSTEM uses four bands
of plantings to slow an approaching fire and create defensible
FOUR, the outermost zone, consists of thinned native vegetation
with free-standing clumps of pruned shrubs and low-growing
plants or mulch in the remaining open space. ZONE THREE, closer
to the house, is low plants to 2 feet tall that burn very
quickly and offer very little fuel to the fire.
ZONE TWO is
a greenbelt of succulents and very low-growing vegetation
that is reluctant to burn. ZONE ONE, the plantings near the
house, consists of less flammable species that present a minimal
risk of exploding into flames during a wildfire.
look at the zone system in action, visit the FIRESCAPE DEMONSTRATION
GARDEN in Santa Barbara at Stanwood Drive and Mission Ridge
removing too much vegetation, especially on steep slopes or
unstable ground. The loss of foliage cover above ground and
roots underground can result in surface erosion and massive
slope failures. If you're not sure how to proceed, check with
a professional first.
plant species that are suitable for erosion control on slopes.
Use erosion control netting or other mechanical means of temporary
protection until plants mature. Control the flow of water,
keeping it away from slopes and channeling it to safe collection
points. Maintain drainage systems in proper working condition.
Control gophers; their tunnels can contribute to slope failures.
combination of drip and overhead irrigation to keep plants
healthy and supplied with moisture. Avoid over-watering, especially
with native plants, but don't let plants become drought-stressed.
to maintain your landscaping to keep it fire safe. Remove
weeds annually. Keep plants pruned and groomed, with a minimum
of dead twigs and branches. Rake up leaf litter and put it
on the compost pile. Keep things watered. Remove leaves and
litter from the roof. Don't allow piles of brush and rubbish
to build up. Keep the ground covered with appropriate plantings
or mulches to prevent erosion.
vulnerable element on your property is your roof. Replace
wood shingle or other flammable roofs with a "Class A"
roofing material. Also, avoid flammable wood siding and decks
overhanging hillsides. Open eaves also invite trouble; boxed
in eaves are better. Avoid large window openings on the "fire
side" of the house. Finally, be sure the vents in the
eaves and attic are screened to keep out flying embers.
Other Articles by Owen E. Dell