Bamboo includes more than 1500 species in 6 "tribes" - all are considered fire-prone when planted in Marin's climate. Bamboo is commonly grown as a screen or hedge. Bamboo should be removed within 30 ' of structures or 10' of roads and driveways according to the fire code adopted by Marin fire agencies.
No bamboo genus or species is “nonflammable” because they all share the same woody stem structure (culms) and other fire prone characteristics. All bamboos form tight clusters of culms (stems). These tight masses of stems tend to accumulate lots of decay resistant, dead material and inhibit the removal of internal dead culms. They all shed dead, shaded out leaves while retaining dead leafless twigs. Leaf and culm sheaths also get caught up in the dense clumps of culms and dead culms are often buried in the dense clumps of culms making it difficult to impossible to remove them. These characteristics are shared by all bamboos and cause all bamboos to be fire prone.
Some bamboo species are shorter and have more slender culms then others, and therefore have less fuel volume. However they also lose their live fuel moisture more quickly when exposed to hot dry winds compared to species with larger culms. Many species of bamboo are “runners” which means they can expand their clump size rapidly by means of underground rhizomes (modified underground horizontal stems). Dense bamboo screens are typically used between homes and along roads to screen unwanted views and provide privacy. These uses can rapidly spread fire from structure to structure and inhibit suppression water application by firefighters. Along roads bamboo is a fire threat to emergency responders and evacuees
Most species of Bamboo are large (6'-35'), with numerous branches emerging from the nodes, and one or two much larger than the rest. The branches can be as long as 11 m (35 ft). They are native to Southeast Asia, China, Taiwan, the Himalayas, New Guinea, Melanesia, and the Northern Territory of Australia.