Wildland fires destroy hundreds of homes and acres of land every year across the country. Fire-safe landscaping is an effective tool that creates an area of defensible space between your home and flammable vegetation that protects against devastating fires.
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) encourages you to keep fire safety at the forefront by learning how to landscape and maintain your property to minimize possible fire damage and slow fires if they start. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility.
Defensible Space Works
During the 1993 raging Malibu fires, a number of homes were saved as a result of the owners' careful pruning and landscaping techniques that protected their homes. In a fire situation, the dead trees and shrubs surrounding your home act as fuel for fire. Removing flammable vegetation reduces the threat of fire. Follow these basic rules to create defensible space that works.
- Remove all dead plants, trees and shrubs from the site.
- Reduce excess leaves, plant parts and low-hanging branches.
- Replace dense flammable plants with fire-resistant plants.
- The choice of plants, spacing and maintenance are crucial elements in any defensible space landscaping plan.
Tips for a Fire-safe Landscape
- Create a defensible space perimeter by thinning trees and brush within 30 feet around your home.
- Beyond 30 feet, remove dead wood, debris and low tree branches.
- Eliminate small trees and plants growing under trees. They allow ground fires to jump into tree crowns.
- Space trees 30 feet apart and prune to a height of 8 to 10 feet.
- Place shrubs at least 20 feet from any structures and prune regularly.
- Plant the most drought-tolerant vegetation within three feet of your home and adjacent to structures to prevent ignition.
- Provide at least a 10 to 15 foot separation between islands of shrubs and plant groups to effectively break-up continuity of vegetation.
- Landscape your property with fire-resistant plants and vegetation to prevent fire from spreading quickly.
Choose Fire Resistant Materials
- Check your local nursery or county extension service for advice on fire resistant plants that are suited for your environment.
- Create fire-safe zones with stone walls, patios, swimming pools, decks and roadways.
- Use rock, mulch, flower beds and gardens as ground cover for bare spaces and as effective firebreaks.
- There are no "fire-proof" plants. Select high moisture plants that grow close to the ground and have a low sap or resin content.
- Choose plant species that resist ignition such as rockrose, iceplant and aloe.
- Fire-resistant shrubs include hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac and shrub apples.
- Plant hardwood, maple, poplar and cherry trees that are less flammable than pine, fir and other conifers.
Maintain Your Home and Surrounding Property
- Maintain a well-pruned and watered landscape to serve as a green belt and protection against fire.
- Keep plants green during the dry season and use supplemental irrigation, if necessary.
- Trim grass on a regular basis up to 100 feet surrounding your home.
- Stack firewood at least 30 feet from your home.
- Store flammable materials, liquids and solvents in metal containers outside the home at least 30 feet away from structures and wooden fences.
- No matter where you live, always install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long-life smoke alarms.
For More Information Contact:
The United States Fire Administration - [ www.usfa.fema.gov ]
Office of Fire Management Programs
16825 South Seton Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727