Choose fire-resistant plants and materials and create defensible areas in the landscape using these design strategies
Firescaping incorporates the design of the landscape and property surrounding a home to lessen its susceptibility to fire. This can be achieved through a well-thought-out landscape design plan that specifies less combustible plants, incorporates fire-resistant materials and follows the advice and guidelines determined by fire-safe organizations.
I’ve identified several landscape design strategies as well as some of the guidelines I’ve gathered from various professionals and fire-safe organizations in California. These methods will help keep your property and home safe without having to sacrifice having a beautiful and thriving landscape. For specific guidelines in your area, please refer to your state, county or local fire safety organizations.
Planning Your Landscape
Protect your home and property by working with a designer to incorporate fire safety guidelines and “buffer zones,” called defensible spaces, during the landscape design planning stages and beyond. These guidelines usually include the use and proper placement of fire-resistant plants and trees and other fire-resistant materials that you can incorporate into the landscape areas surrounding your home. Creating defensible spaces is also critical for safe access by firefighters.
Create and maintain defensible space. This infographic shows the recommended defensible space surrounding a home in California. Two zones make up the guidelines for the 100 feet of defensible space, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
Zone 1: The home defense zone is within 30 feet of the house. Within this zone you want to remove all dead or dry vegetation, as well as any dead or dying plants, and keep tree branches at least 10 feet from your chimney and other trees. Relocate wood piles into Zone 2.
Zone 2: The reduced fuel zone is 30 to 100 feet from the home, or to the property line. Within this zone make sure you cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of 4 inches. Create horizontal spacing between shrubs that are two to six times the shrub’s height, depending on the ground’s slope. Space trees 10 to 30 feet apart, depending on the ground’s slope. Remove all tree branches less than 6 feet from the ground. If shrubs are growing underneath a tree, allow clearance space of at least three times the shrub’s height to the tree’s lowest branch.
These guidelines were created for some regions in California. Check with your local fire jurisdiction to determine the guidelines and laws in your area.
Incorporate nonflammable hardscape materials. This strategy will create fire-safe zones adjacent to your home and help keep your home safe should a fire approach. Nonflammable materials include gravel, concrete, stone, steel, decomposed granite and other fire-resistant materials. Use these materials for walkways, patios, retaining walls, planting bed edging, driveways and gravel for planter bed mulch (instead of a wood mulch).
Slow down or stop a fire in its path. This is an important goal in the initial landscape design phase as well as during ongoing maintenance.
Other landscape design features that can slow down or stop a spreading fire:
Create a fire-safe zone around wood decking. Although decking products not treated with fire retardant are combustible, some decking is not highly combustible on its own, according to Cal Fire. Typically, other fuel sources, such as plant debris or other combustible materials stored under or on top of the deck, as well as combustible vegetation surrounding it, contribute to deck fires. Keep this in mind during fire season, and maintain your decks to keep them free of easily-ignited materials such as leaves and needles that accumulate between the deck boards, along the home’s siding and below the deck.
If you have your heart set on a new wood deck, look for wood that is treated with a fire retardant or other fire-resistant building material. Hardwoods from South America, such as ipe and cumaru, have high fire resistance (and many are sustainably farmed). A fully enclosed deck will offer added protection by eliminating a heat trap below it.
Another good tactic is to isolate the deck from fire by adding noncombustible materials, such as stone, concrete or gravel, along the front sides and below the deck to create a fire barrier.
Planting Your Landscape
Choose fire-resistant plants. There are no fireproof plants, but plants that possess a high moisture content are more fire-resistant. Many native plants are considered to be among the most fire-resistant plants for fire-prone regions.
Typically, native trees and shrubs are adapted to their native regions, deep-rooted and proficient at acquiring water from the soil and retaining it in their leaves. There are also many non-native plants, including succulents, that posses fire-resistant qualities. Some characteristics of fire-resistant plants:
Check your local resources for the recommended fire-resistant plants and trees in your region.
Add succulents. By now, most people are aware of the drought-tolerant and easy-care benefits of succulent plants. Besides these favorable attributes, succulents are also extremely fire-resistant. Succulents and cactuses store water in their leaves, stems and roots, making them some of the top fire-resistant plant choices. Many succulents require frost-free regions to live, but there are also species that survive in low temperatures. Check with your local nurseries for succulent varieties that thrive in your region.
In addition to their drought-tolerant benefits and striking architectural beauty, succulent plants, along with noncombustible ground covers and hardscape materials, can serve as an effective and attractive “living safety shield” and offer added protection against fire to a home and its surroundings.
Avoid highly flammable plants. Shrubs and trees that contain resins or oils in their stems, leaves or needles are highly flammable. Some of the offenders include juniper shrubs and eucalyptus, pine, spruce and fir trees.
Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is one of the most flammable trees and is capable of releasing a flammable gas that sends out fireballs during a fire. Juniper shrubs (Juniperus spp.) also contain flammable, volatile oils and accumulate dry leaves and needles, and they burn fast in a fire.
Maintaining Your Landscape
Other Fire-Wise Maintenance Practices
In the event of a fire, you can reduce how quickly the fire spreads and increase the survival of your home, your landscape and your family. There is a wealth of valuable information available through countless fire-safe organizations worldwide to further guide you.
I originally wrote a version of this article for Houzz.com.
9/5/2020 05:20:29 pm
10/4/2020 09:12:32 am
Very helpful information for "today's California". These tactics can certainly help to slow a fire—and I love the way it looks, too! Thanks for posting, Eileen.
4/2/2021 02:21:25 am
You need to hire someone to draw a basic outline of what you can do. No matter what part of the country you are from, water-wise landscaping is good practice. It's always worth hiring professionals to give you a road map on how to proceed. You can take the road map (landscape plan) and run with it yourself, or you can hire the landscape architect to manage it for you. Either way, it's better - and less expensive - than trying to do it alone. You may also want to consider painting your house to make the entire thing work together. Good luck and have fun!
4/9/2021 06:08:37 am
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8/3/2021 07:11:16 am
The simplicity of your presentation is highly-motivating for learning. Please keep it up for your teeming followers.
8/5/2021 06:27:08 am
Keep up the great work! Thank you so much for sharing a great posts.
9/16/2021 07:29:19 am
The way you discussed the topic with ease and completeness is really amazing. Thanks for this article!
1/22/2022 06:49:11 am
I appreciate that you explained the usage and right positioning of fire-resistant plants and trees, as well as other fire-resistant elements that you may include in the landscape regions surrounding your house, are frequently included in these guidelines. My best friend is looking for some info, this should help him. I appreciate that you helped me learn more about landscaping.
2/27/2022 12:43:41 pm
These methods will help keep your property and home safe without having to sacrifice having a beautiful and thriving landscape. Thank you for the beautiful post!
3/2/2022 09:41:24 pm
It's awesome that you talked about the importance of planning to execute the process properly. My mother told me last night that she's looking for a dependable landscaping service to help her improve the appearance of her garden, and she asked if I had any suggestions. Thanks to this informative article, I'll be sure to tell her that she should seek the advice of a reputable landscape design company, as they can answer all of her questions.
3/16/2022 08:24:55 am
It's so cool that you talked about landscape designs and how it's important to think about our surroundings when developing one! In a few weeks, my wife and I will move into our new home, and we're excited to start designing our landscape. After reading your article, we do think it'd be wise to think about fires and how to protect our home from them, so we'll be sure to keep reading your tips! Thank you so much for helping us understand firescaping designs!
4/24/2022 07:45:26 pm
Fire proofing is not new in gardening. But sometimes overlooked by some homeowners.
5/4/2022 02:32:00 pm
This strategy will create fire-safe zones adjacent to your home and help keep your home safe should a fire approach. I truly appreciate your great post!
7/11/2022 12:05:20 pm
If you use Salesforce and other applications to manage your business processes, you should consider syncing them together for ease of use.
7/14/2022 11:18:49 pm
Landscaping not only keeps your property beautiful but safe makes it a priceless ordeal, that's for certain. But, unfortunately, you just can't put a price on beauty and safety.
It's interesting to know that having a defensible space is recommended what about a hundred feet of space from the house. I guess we need land clearing services to create that kind of area around the house that we bought this year. I've never heard of any incidents of wildfire in this location, but it is still a good idea to invest making your area or home safe from fire.
7/19/2022 03:11:30 am
Poorly maintained trees can be a hazard and a liability in some situations. If the work is not done by a professional, it can be a risk both to the tree and the person performing the maintenance.
10/11/2022 02:22:54 pm
We appreciate your sharing. We will share with our staff to become better contractors.
10/20/2022 05:54:38 am
It's great to know that our property can still look nice with the landscape design while keeping the house safe from fire. We might actually need a fire space clearance service for the backyard, because the house that I bought is at a location where a wildfire happened before. It would be better to be prepared for the safety of my family, especially when we have pets and one toddler.
1/4/2023 06:37:08 pm
Thank you for mentioning that you can protect your house and belongings by working with a designer to include "buffer zones" and fire safety requirements. My mother desires to remodel the home. I'll advise my mother to hire landscape architects so that they can complete the restoration according to industry standards for safety.
1/6/2023 11:27:11 am
Thank you for sharing this.
1/17/2023 12:26:37 pm
Thanks for sharing the information it’s really helpful and informative
1/27/2023 05:48:51 am
Firescaping is a concept used to help protect homes from the risk of fire. It utilizes the design of the landscape and property surrounding a home to reduce its vulnerability to fire. This includes things such as creating a defensible space around the home, which reduces the amount of combustible materials near the house, and installing fire-resistant plants and trees that are less likely to ignite. Additionally, firescaping utilizes features such as fire-resistant walls and barriers, water features, and rooftop sprinkler systems to slow the spread of flames. By incorporating these design elements into the landscape, a homeowner can reduce their risk of fire and protect their home and property.
1/31/2023 09:12:35 am
Nice article! thanks for sharing the post!
2/20/2023 01:44:06 pm
3/22/2023 05:19:43 am
The piece offers advice on how to keep a fire-wise landscape in good condition and describes the plants and materials that are most suited to this purpose. All in all, it's a great guide for people who want to learn more about how to safeguard their homes and property from the threat of wildfires in their region.
3/27/2023 06:07:15 am
It is so nice. I love that kind of landscapes.
5/3/2023 08:13:15 pm
I appreciate that you explained that design strategies could offer a more functional design for your landscape planning. A few nights ago, my aunt informed me she was looking for a trustworthy landscaping service that could boost the appearance and function of her garden. She asked if I had ideas on the best design approach. I love this helpful landscaping design tips article. I'll tell her we can try to consult well-known landscape design services as they can provide details about the design process.
5/10/2023 10:16:14 pm
As a homeowner living in an area at risk of wildfire, I found the blog, FIRE-WISE LANDSCAPES KEEP YOUR HOME AND PROPERTY BEAUTIFUL AND SAFE to be extremely helpful. The tips on how to create and maintain fire-resistant landscapes around my home were invaluable!
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