When you live in Truckee, CA (or any of the surrounding areas), you learn to expect a few wildfires now and again. In fact, the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District estimates that Truckee meadows saw a 96% increase in fire incidents during the 2016 summer months.
While firefighters do an excellent job at controlling the flames, you naturally may worry that a loose spark or stray ember may put your property at risk. The recent drought makes any wildfire a potential disaster for homeowners, and you can easily imagine your home going up in a blaze.
Fortunately, you can take steps to ease your fears and make your property more fire resistant. The following landscaping tips can effectively slow a fire’s progression so the flames don’t reach your home.
1. Choose Fire-Resistant Plants
Plants might not even make your list of ways to improve your home’s fire resistance. Flowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses all provide fuel for the flames, so naturally you might assume that you want as little organic material near your property as possible.
However, some plants do have a natural fire resistance that makes them a good choice for decorating your yard and garden. While they are not completely fireproof, consider planting some of the following this spring:
- California redbud
- California sycamore
- Wild strawberry
What about plants you don’t see listed here? As a general rule, avoid flowers, trees, and shrubs that have waxy or oily leaves and stems, as these are highly flammable. Succulents with high water content (such as sedum) are less flammable, so they make a better alternative.
If you must use mulch, keep the bark moist, or opt for decorative gravel and rock.
2. Divide Your Garden With Brick and Paving
Fire needs readily available and continuous fuel sources to spread quickly. A large patch of grass, a cluster of shrubs, or a line of trees gives the fire a natural path to follow. If you want to stop fire in its tracks, you need to break up these fuel sources with non-flammable materials.
For best results, install wide brick or paved pathways in your yard and garden. These trails will not only create a point of interest for your visitors, but they will also grant firefighters and first responders better access to your home.
Ideally, these paths should be at least four feet wide. This distance greatly reduces the likelihood of sparks and embers jumping from one fuel source to another.
3. Install a Fire Barrier Wall
Vinyl and chain link fences do well when you want to keep out noisy neighbors or deter would-be thieves. However, vinyl melts quickly when exposed to high temperatures, and chain link fences do little to stop flames from spreading.
If possible, consider upgrading your current fencing to a fire barrier wall. Stucco, concrete, and brick walls not only break up fire fuel sources, but they also muffle sounds and increase privacy.
Keep in mind that trees and shrubs planted next to the wall may give flames and embers a chance to climb up and over your barrier. For maximum protection, only plant short flowers and shrubs near your barrier, and regularly trim back overhanging branches from nearby trees.
Talk to a Landscaping Expert for Advice
With a little preparation and planning, you can keep fire from blazing through your yard. The above landscaping tips can help you get started, but keep in mind that you can do so much more than plant fire-resistant plants or install brick or paved features.
To more fully prepare your property for wildfire and natural disaster, talk to a professional landscaper who has experience with defensible spaces. The right landscaper can assess your property’s location, slope, and design and recommend ways to reduce combustible fuels without compromising your home’s curb appeal.