Create a defendable space around your house

Devastating wildfires in California have made everyone more aware of the dangers of living in fire prone regions. While nothing can totally eliminate the threat of wildfires in these areas, there are things which can be done to lessen the impact.

Research is ongoing on ways to protect your house using firewise landscaping techniques. You might also hear this as "firescaping" or even fire safe landscaping.

This post is designed to give you a quick rundown of the overall principles, then share with you some of the best web resources we've found on this important topic.

Fruit trees like apples can be an important element in firescaping

Look to Local Fire Experts for Help as You Plan

Preplanning is critical to reduce your risk of forest, grassland and other flammable wildland area fires. You’ll want to consider looking into your state forestry agencies and local fire protection district to request a region-specific property assessment.

A site visit from a forestry or fire expert can uncover important action items to harden your house. In addition, experts will be able to tell you how to manage your gorgeous existing plantings of trees and bushes.

Firewise Landscaping is Cutting Edge Garden Design Theory

The goal is to redesign your landscape in a way that is less likely to contribute to the spread of wildfire to your house or other structures.

Start thinking of your house as a castle surrounded by "defensible space" and treatment zones. Each zone is part of a comprehensive plan to limit fire access to your home and outbuildings, without reducing the beauty of your living space. Choose the most fire-resistant plants when preparing your landscape. When planting, use them in a right way to subdue an advancing fire.

* Consider placing all hardscape, walkways, patios, and play areas close to the house to create a greater distance between what will burn and the house.

* Bark and wood mulches should never be used within 10 feet of the house. These ignite quickly and burn intensely. Instead, use rock or gravel close to structures. 

* Never plant low growing shrubs below taller growing trees. This creates a ladder effect allowing the fire on the ground easier access to the trees and then to your house. Avoid plants that create lots of litter, or plan to clean up regularly.

* Use flower and vegetable gardens as wet spaces between your structures and the surrounding forest. The wet spaces are more difficulty to ignite because they are watered regularly.

Fire-Resistant Plant Lists

Keep in mind that no plant is fire proof. However, its best to select plants with a high moisture content that are resistant to fire as you design a firewise landscape.

Nature Hills offers plant materials that appear on several regional roundup lists for fire-resistant plants. Here are a few considerations:

Daylilies  |  Serviceberry Shrubs  |  Poplar Trees  |  Apple Trees  |  Cherry Trees

Resource Websites to Help You Plan Your Defensible Space

Each district is different, so please plan to do your own legwork. We’ve gotten you started with some wonderful resources, but it may take several phone calls to find the right resource in your area to schedule a visit to your home. 

Colorado State Forest Service has great information on how you can protect your home, property and forest from wildfire.

Cal Fire is a comprehensive site related to preparing your home for wildfire. 

FireFree is an Oregon-based organization that has wonderful resources from Oregon State University, Washington State University and the University of Idaho.

FireSafeMarin gives Northern California residence practical tips on firescaping and hardening your house.

National Fire Protection Association covers in-depth fire preparation both inside and outside the home.

Utah State University extension program is loaded with good information for wildfire prone regions.

Be safe!