When we look at completing fire safe actions in the home ignition zone, it can mean different things to different people. Concerns we hear from people who are looking to get started include "I don't want a moonscape" or "I moved here for the trees" or "this is my favorite plant." Practitioners often speak about the science verses the art of managing vegetation in the home ignition zone. Just because you live in a wildfire area doesn't mean you can't have plants, but when they are near the home, you have to treat them the same way - make sure they are in good condition, perform annual maintenance, and give them space.
To illustrate this, I thought I would share an example from my family's yard. The different shrubs and trees were planted by the previous owners, but are valued for their beauty, smell (honeysuckle and lilac), and shade they help provide during the heat of the day. Admittedly, we have not done a good job at caring for them during the almost three years we've lived here. As you can see in the photo, they are:
- Have leaf and needle litter around the base and mixed in
- Dead branches
- Bark mulch underneath
As they are in the 0-5 foot space from our deck, we really need to do a better job. Some positive things we have going for us:
- Not highly flammable plants
- Water system in place to keep them green and healthy throughout our typical fire season
With all of that I mind, I set out to work. Armed with a pair of gloves, loppers, rake, and a bag, an hour saw things looking much better. The most valued plant by the family is the honeysuckle. Here I focused on removing all litter debris, pulling out the runners that were going under the deck, and giving it space from the other plants in the area.
The others plants were treated the same:
- Pruned limbs that were touching or reaching under the deck
- Removed debris from the base of the plants and all around under the deck
We made progress but there's still more. The next steps for us are bringing in rock to replace the mulch, continue to keep up our maintenance, and screen in the deck.
For more tips on how to improve your safety, visit our Preparing Homes for Wildfires page. You can also learn more the importance of the 0-5 foot space around you home by checking out our fact sheet Immediate (Noncombustible) Zone.