Fire-resistant Landscaping Tips
Living in a house surrounded by nature
and wild lands can
be peaceful and beautiful, but also risky in some areas of the country.
High intensity, violent wildfires are
risks in many wild land ecosystems, and with it comes an increased risk to homes and lives
in these areas.
Protecting your home and property from wildfire is your responsibility.
Don't assume firefighters can save your home or property. As much as
they may want to, resources are limited and conditions may make it
impossible to safely reach and protect your home when fires attack.
There are many things you can do
to protect your home with a little thought and planning concerning
how you landscape your property.
Advance planning and knowing how to protect structures in these areas can lessen the impacts of
a wildfire. When designing or building your home, consider choosing a Fire Wise location, developing
a defensible space around your structure, and selecting fire resistive building materials.
Create a defensible space around your home. Remove flammable plantings at
least 30' from your home; more if your home is on a slope. Equipment
for this purpose runs the gamut from gas-powered brush cutters and
line trimmers to high-wheeled weed mowers made especially to remove
tall weeds, to tractors with brush hogs.
Remove all dry vegetation that would allow fire to climb into tree
tops. Dead or low-hanging branches should be removed, and limbs should
be at least 15' or higher above the ground.
Branches and debris should not be stacked for collection, but disposed
of properly at a dump, or turned into easily disposable chips with a brush chipper.
to inspect the roof of your house for collected debris in valleys and gutters.
A leaf blower can remove leaves, pine needles and other debris
from your roof and gutters.
If you have a swimming pool, consider purchasing a small portable
water pump, so that pool water can be used to spray down your roof
and shrubs if fire should threaten.
Encourage your neighbors to
take an interest in fire safety as well. Often a neighborhood can
pool resources and manpower to rent and use equipment for brush clearing.
Remodeling & new building fire-resistant tips
A major cause of home loss in
wild land areas
is the flammability of building materials.
a flammable roof ignites, the fire will move quickly to the rest of
roof sprinklers to protect your flammable roof from burning are not
always reliable. Water pressure is at its lowest during a fire and
electricity needed to pump the water often fails. High winds associated
with wildfires can also blow the spray away from the roof.
When installing a new roof, strike the right balance between cost,
aesthetics and fire protection. Ask your contractor about non-combustible
or fire-resistant roofing materials such as Class-A asphalt shingles,
metal, cement and concrete products, or terra-cotta tiles. Today, manufacturers
have even developed products that simulate the look of wood shakes.
If you're adding on,
or re-siding, keep in mind that exterior wall cladding should also be made of fire-resistive
Some exterior siding materials,
such as vinyl, soften and melt, exposing internal wall components that will ignite from
heat, and allow firebrands a
direct route into your home.
Materials, such as stucco or masonry,
stand up better under heat and exposure.
When designing and installing a fire wise landscape, consider the following:
Local area fire
Site location and overall terrain
Prevailing winds and seasonal weather
Property contours and boundaries
Plant characteristics and placement
To create a fire wise landscape, the primary goal is
fuel reduction. To this end, initiate the zone concept. Zone 1 is closest to the structure;
Zones 2—4 move progressively further away.
Zone 1. This well-irrigated area encircles the structure for at least 30'
on all sides, providing space for fire suppression equipment in the event of an emergency.
Plantings should be limited to carefully spaced low flammability species.
Zone 2. Low flammability plant materials
should be used here. Plants should be low-growing, and the irrigation system should extend
into this section.
Zone 3. Place low-growing plants
and well-spaced trees in this area, remembering to keep the volume of vegetation (fuel)
Zone 4. This furthest zone from the structure is a natural
area. Selectively prune and thin all plants and remove highly flammable vegetation.
Also remember to:
Leave a minimum of 30' around the house to accommodate
emergency equipment, if necessary.
Widely space and carefully situate the trees you plant.
Take out the “ladder fuels”— vegetation
that serves as a link between grass and tree tops.
This arrangement can carry fire to a structure or from a structure
added protection with “fuel breaks” like driveways,
gravel walkways, and lawns.
Surround the base of your home with non-flammable materials (crushed
gravel, rock, concrete, brick etc.) so that flying embers don't have
an ignition source after encountering your home's exterior walls.
Mulch against the house is not good.
When maintaining a landscape:
Keep trees and shrubs properly pruned. Prune all trees so the
lowest limbs are 15' from the ground.
Remove leaf clutter, dead and overhanging branches.
Mow the lawn regularly.
Dispose of cuttings and debris promptly, according to local regulations.
Store firewood as far away
from the house as possible.
Be sure the irrigation system is well maintained.
Use care when refueling garden equipment
and maintain it regularly.
Store and use flammable liquids properly.
Dispose of smoking materials carefully.
Become familiar with local regulations regarding vegetation
clearances, debris disposal and fire safety requirements
Follow manufacturers’ instructions
when using fertilizers and pesticides.
In designing and building your fire wise structure,
remember the primary goals are reducing available fuel and reducing
as much as possible exposure to fire outbreaks.
To this end:
Use fire-resistant or non-combustible construction materials whenever
Use materials such as Class-A
asphalt shingles, slate or clay tile, metal, cement and concrete
products, or terra-cotta tiles for roof construction
a fire-resistant sub-roof can add protection as well.
On exterior wall facing, fire resistive
materials such as stucco or masonry are much better choices than vinyl which can soften
Window materials and size are important. Smaller
panes hold up better than larger ones. Double pane glass and
tempered glass are more reliable and effective heat
barriers than single pane glass. Plastic skylights will melt.
Install non-flammable shutters
on windows and skylights.
To prevent sparks from entering your home through vents, cover
exterior attic and under floor
vents with wire screening with no larger than 1/8" mesh. Box
in eaves, but be sure to provide adequate ventilation to prevent
Include a driveway wide enough to provide access for fire engines (12' wide
with a vertical clearance of 15' and a slope that is less than 5%). Driveway
access roads should be well-maintained, clearly marked, and include ample turnaround space
near the house. Provide easy access to fire service water supplies.
at least 2 ground level doors for easy and safe exit and at least two means of escape
(i.e., doors or windows) in each room.
Keep gutters, eaves, and
roofs clear of leaves and debris.
Periodically inspect of your home, looking for
deterioration such as breaks and spaces
between roof tiles, warping wood, or cracks and crevices in the
Clear dead wood and dense vegetation to a distance of at
least 30 feet from your house. Move firewood away from the house
or attachments like fences or decks. Cover firewood stacks with
Structures attached to the house, such as decks, porches, fences,
and outbuildings should
be considered part of the house. These structures will act as fuel
bridges, particularly if
constructed from flammable materials.
Therefore, consider the following:
If you wish to attach
an all-wood fence to your house, use masonry or metal as a protective
barriers between the fence and house.
Use metal when constructing a trellis and cover it with
high-moisture, low flammability vegetation.
Prevent combustible materials and debris from accumulating
beneath patio decks or elevated
porches. Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire
screen no larger than 1/8"
mesh to prevent blowing embers from collecting underneath.
Make sure an elevated wooden deck is not located at the top of
a hill where it would be in the direct
line of a fire moving up the slope. Consider a terrace instead.