Bow Down to Fire-wise Landscaping

How You Can Reduce Your Risk

It’s fire season: that time of year when it’s critical that we take all precautionary steps to keep our homes and communities safe.  Fire-wise landscaping can be both beautiful and reduce the potential for wildfires.  The Flagstaff Fire Department has additional resources for information but here is a brief synopsis of their recommendations.  

Defensible Space:  Ember exposure is the root cause of over half of all structure loss.  Create and maintain 30 feet of “clean and green” space around your home using the following suggestions.

Construction/Hardscaping –

  • Use ignition resistant construction materials like cement, stone, stucco and plaster
  • Surround your home with non-flammable barriers like cinder walls, paved walkways and gravel

Planting Guidelines –

There are no “fire proof plants” – however, spacing, plant choice, and maintenance are critical.

  • Plants nearest your home should be widely spaced and smaller than those farther away
  • Plant in small irregular clusters
  • Breakup the vegetation with decorative rock, gravel or stone pathways
  • Remove and avoid plants with high resin content
  • Conifers (pines, firs, spruces, junipers and Arizona Cypress) are more flammable due to their oil and pitch content – even when they are kept watered
  • Use a variety of plants to support a mixed and healthy landscape – fewer insects/diseases

Plant Choice –

Choose plants with these characteristics:

  • Does not accumulate large amounts of combustible dead branches, needles, or leaves
  • Open, loose branches with a low volume of total vegetation
  • Low resin content (many deciduous species)
  • High-moisture content (succulents and some herbaceous plants)
  • Grows slowly and does not need frequent pruning
  • Short and grows close to the ground
  • Can re-establish following a fire, reducing the costs of planting new trees

Maintenance –

Be exceptionally diligent during fire season

  • Remove all pine needles from the roof, gutters, and the perimeter of your home
  • Remove annual plants after they have gone to seed, or when the stem dries out
  • Remove any damaged plants parts and keep plants pruned
  • Provide supplemental water to those nearest your home
  • In the event of drought and water rationing, prioritize the plants you wish to save
  • Keep grass shortest within your defensible space – no more than 6 inches high in the outer portions.
  • Use mulch to conserve moisture and reduce weed growth
  • Mulch can be organic (wood chips or small bark pieces) or inorganic (gravel or rock)
  • Water trees and other plants during the winter dry periods, before water rationing becomes necessary in the summer



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