Staten Island, New York prone to wildfires? Some say invasive grasses are to blame

Blog Post created by laurenbackstrom Employee on Feb 28, 2012
Eastern Shore NY
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Photos from East Shore, State Island (Richmond County) CWPP

You may be surprised to learn that the WUI exists on Staten Island!

In the last fifteen years, 103 brush fires have occurred along the Eastern Shore communities in this urban setting of New York City. The source of these wildfires is the invasive grass Common Reed (Phragmites australis). Phragmites often outcompetes all other plant species, establishing a monoculture, which lowers habitat diversity. Phragmites can grow to a height of twelve  feet. When ignited, the standing dead stalks produce flame lengths of up to 70 feet and high rates of spread. While some of the brush fires are accidental, most are caused by arson.  Many of these stands of phragmites occur close to structures and homes along the water’s edge threatening firefighters and residents. The FDNY has adapted its strategy to fight the wildfires by positioning ladder trucks near homes that are threatened, raising their ladders, and spraying water on the phragmites over the tops of the structures.

To address this serious wildfire threat to these communities, several agencies have joined together to produce a draft CWPP, which is now out for public review. Among some of the mitigation efforts suggested by the plan are: mechanical fuel reduction through mowing, use of herbicides, prescribed burns and educating homeowners to take greater ownership of the protection of their homes and community through the Firewise Communities Program.

As a homeowner, learn more about how to keep your home, property and neighborhood safe by utilizing the resources available on our “For Homeowners” page of the Firewise website. Do you live in an area where phragmites are common? What are you doing to combat the problem? Share your stories with our Firewise audience.

-Heidi Wagner