Fire-Smart landscaping uses carefully chosen plants that are strategically planted to resist the spread of fire to your home. These varieties of Fire-Smart plants are often drought tolerant, too. Some "fire-hazardous" plants burn readily, and should be removed or avoided at any cost.
Fire-Smart plants are the cornerstone of a home's Defensible Space, however all plants will burn if poorly maintained. Choose a fire-smart species, maintain plant health, irrigate, and remove all dead material regularly.
Fire-Smart landscaping requires careful plant selection, placement, spacing, and maintenance to help resist the spread of fire to your home. Fire-Smart plants are usually easier to maintain, don't contain volatile oils, accumulate less dead woody material, and are more naturally resistant to igniting from flames and embers. These plants are NOT “fireproof” and all require irrigation and frequent maintenance to resist ignition.
FIRE-SMART PLANT CHARACTERISTICS
The good news is, you don’t need a lot of money to make your landscape more fire-resilient. Fire-Smart landscaping can increase property value and conserve water while beautifying your home.
Some plants are particularly susceptible to fire: they may ignite readily and burn intensely, and should be removed or aggressively maintained if present near a home, road, or driveway. You may be required to remove some or all of these species depending on local fire codes if present within 100’ of structures.
It is best to identify fire-prone plants by their characteristics and structure. This is not an exhaustive list, and some plants not listed here may be fire-prone. Any plant in poor health, lacking irrigation, or with a buildup of dry or dead material may burn. Most common fire-prone plants typically share certain characteristics:
The condition of the plant is as important as its species. Even some fire-prone species can be quite fire-resistant if properly maintained. Depending on its growth form and access to water, the same species may be fire resistant in one environment and flammable in another. Water -stressed plants that are in poor condition are more likely to burn readily. Those species already identified as fire-prone become explosively flammable when poorly maintained. South-facing slopes, windy areas, sites with poor soils and urban landscapes are more stressful for plants and lead to greater hazard from burning vegetation.
Bamboo are fast growing grass species that can make a good privacy screen - as long as you live in outside the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Although some species of bamboo can be maintained in a relatively fire resistant state, their rapid moisture loss during periods of hot, dry weather and tendency to accumulate fine, dead leaf litter makes them unsuitable as a screening plant near homes. If you live in or near the WUI, choose fire-resistant screens and hedges instead.
Italian cypress are often planted as an architectural compliment to mediterranean-style homes. These tall, highly combustible trees are sometimes referred to as "Roman candles" by firefighters. With a structure that is difficult to maintain free of dead woodly material and dry needles, they ignite easily. They should be avoided in or near the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Watch Italian cypress burning on FIRESafe MARIN's YouTube channel...