Is Your Yard a Fire Risk?

With much of the country suffering through drought conditions, the threat for wildfires is incredibly high. Even if you don’t live in a rural area, the landscaping you have around your home could increase your own fire risk.

There are things you can do, however, to improve safety while still maintaining the beauty of the natural spaces around your home or vacation property.

Think Defensively

“Defensible space” is the amount of vegetation-free clearance you have around your home. According to Colorado State University (CSU), it creates “room for firefighters to do their job.”

Keeping common fuels, such as grasses, brush and trees, away from your home will increase the chances it can survive a wildfire. Here are some tips from CSU on landscaping within defensible space:

  • The closer plants are to your home, the more widely spaced and low-growing they should be.
  • Hardscape elements, such as rock, gravel and stepping-stone pathways, will help break up the continuity of vegetation, and may slow the spread of fire.
  • Plant in small clusters or islands, not large masses.
  • Don’t use mulches, such as pine bark, that can easily catch fire.
  • Keep up with routine yard maintenance, such as mowing your grass, to contain overgrowth.
  • Be mindful of “fire ladders,” which occur when vegetation extends from the ground up to the tree canopy.

Plant Thoughtfully

What you plant isn’t as important as how and where you plant – there are no fire-proof plants, after all – but you do have choices that can improve safety. The California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection recommends that you choose plants with high moisture levels that don’t have a lot of sap or resin. Here are some things to consider:

  • Rockrose, iceplant and aloe are examples of plants that resist ignition.
  • Hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster and sumac are fire-resistant shrubs.
  • When it comes to trees, hardwoods such as maple, poplar and cherry aren’t as flammable as pine, fir and other conifers. Be sure to remove leaves that accumulate near structures after falling, as those pose a fire risk.
  • Many fire-resistant plants also don’t require a lot of watering, making them wise choices in drought conditions as well.

Ideal planting times can vary geographically, and even though many species can be planted at any time of year, it’s generally best to avoid planting when weather is very cold or very hot. Check with a local nursery, landscape company or county extension service for information specific to your area.

What Else to Keep in Mind

Even though we’ve already talked about defensible space, it bears repeating. For the first 30 feet surrounding your home, keep things lean, clean and green. Doing so doesn’t have to detract from the beauty of your property.

Choose a diverse range of plants to provide visual appeal, as well as protection against pests or disease that could cause widespread problems. And, not everything needs to be natural; consider installing garden art or colorful containers for added personality.

Remember, you can plan and create attractive spaces that enhance your home’s appearance, while reducing fire risk at the same time.

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Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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