Firewise urban landscaping is an important issue for those communities living in wildfire prone areas and whose individual homes share the same HIZ. Ali True of Ashland Fire & Rescue spoke on this subject at the Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference this afternoon.
Ali first explained that for Ashland, urban landscaping includes fire resistant plants, tree and shrub spacing, maintenance, fuel free areas and fire resistant privacy screening plants. She discussed the Oak Knoll Fire of August 2010 to emphasize her point about the importance of urban landscaping and building materials in minimizing wildfire risk.
The Oak Knoll fire began due to an improperly disposed cigarette which ignited the grass. Embers spread the fire, which completely destroyed 11 homes within 30 minutes. The entire fire only covered 16 acres - the winds were actually only 10 miles per hour that day, however the temperature was very hot and dry. Of the row of 11 homes that were lost, many had woodshake roofs as well as fire prone vegetation around homes and between homes. The final house of the row, the 12th home, didn't burn and stopped the spread of fire to give the fire department time to respond and contain the fire. This home had mature vegetation, open space around the home, a lack of fire prone vegetation within 30 feet of the home and no ladder fuels.
Ali has helped to create materials for homeowners to show them what plants and trees are fire resistant and therefore an ideal choice. Check out the Firewise site for a list of fire resistant plants in your state.