Thomas Landscapes

Fire Resistant Landscaping In Northern California

Fire resistant landscaping is becoming increasingly important in California. Fortunately, there are easy steps you can incorporate into your landscaping to help ensure your home and business is as prepared as possible. Understanding how fire resistant landscaping can defend your home first from catching fire and, if it does begin to burn, preventing the flames from spreading further.

Fire resistant plants and landscaping are often drought resistant as well creating an even more beneficial landscaping result for California living. 

Firescaping is the strategic practice of making your property as safe and fire-resistant as possible through a variety of techniques. It encompasses a range of landscape and hardscape practices, from planting high moisture shrubbery to creating fire-resistant zones through stone walls, patios, or driveways.

Just because you want your property to maintain the highest level of defense against wildfire threats doesn’t mean it has to have primarily concrete with no lush vegetation or green space. With careful planning, skillful firescaping can greatly reduce your property’s vulnerability in the event of a fire while still enhancing the natural beauty of your landscape.

Some important things to remember when landscaping for fire resistance

  1. Outside debris should be well away from structures.
  2. What does the first 30 feet of landscaping surrounding a home look like? Vegetation should be well cared for with all dead, dying and diseased plant material removed.
  3. What does the landscape look like for 100 feet surrounding the home? Dead material should be removed and flammable weeds removed or cut down, and with ample distance between shrubs and trees to prevent the fire from jumping from one to the next.
  4. Resources should be on hand at all times, including an evacuation plan, backup and water and emergency communications.

Remember The Zone Theory When Landscaping With Fire Resistant Plants

Steps two and four are the most important features of firescaping, and part of a landscape design model developed in the 1960s by the Los Angeles Arboretum called “Zone Theory.” It is so effective that it has been adopted throughout the world.

Zone Theory imagines your home as the bullseye on a giant target, with each of four zones spreading out in concentric rings. The first zone, or Garden Zone, extends 30 feet from the structure and is designed and maintained to withstand an onslaught of embers. The second zone, or Greenbelt, extends 70 feet and its goal is to stop a ground fire. The goals of zones three and four are to reduce the severity of a fire. Zone three extends to 120 feet from a structure and zone four is everything beyond that.

Zone one should be planted with fire-retardant plants which sizzle when exposed to flames and intense heat, but rarely ignite. Examples include lily of the Nile, coral bells and roses. Succulents and cacti are also fire-retardant.

Zones two and three should be planted with fire-resistant plants which may burn, but let the fire pass through quickly and re-sprout without assistance immediately after the fire. These plants are vital for reducing topsoil loss and erosion caused by winter rains following a fire. Fire-resistant plants are more drought adapted and include yarrow, rockrose and island mallow.

In an interview with Fine Gardening, Kent uses the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego County as the perfect example of how effective firescaping can be. According to the Las Angeles Times, 2,820 homes were completely destroyed – but of the ones that survived, 90 percent had that vital first 30 feet of defensible space.