FIRE SAFE LANDSCAPE DESIGN
Firescaping is landscape design that reduces house and property vulnerability
to wildfire. The goal is to develop a landscape whose design and choice
of plants offers the best fire protection and enhances the property. The
ideal is to surround the house with things that are less likely to burn.
It is imperative that when building homes in wildfire-prone areas that
fire safety be a major factor in landscape design. Appropriate manipulation
of the landscape can make a significant contribution towards wildfire
In firescaping, plant selection is primarily determined by a plant's
ability to reduce the wildfire threat. Other considerations may be important
such as appearance, ability to hold the soil in place, and wildlife habitat
value. The traditional foundation planting of junipers is not a viable
solution in a firescape design.
Minimize use of evergreen shrubs and trees within 30 feet of a structure,
because junipers, other conifers and broadleaf evergreens contain oils,
resins and waxes that make these plants bum with great intensity. Use
ornamental grasses and berries sparingly because they also can be highly
Chose "fire smart" plants. These are plants with a high moisture
content. They are low growing. Their stems and leaves are not resinous,
oily or waxy.
Firescape design uses driveways, lawns, walkways, patios, parking areas,
areas with inorganic mulches, and fences constructed of nonflammable materials
such as rock, brick, or cement to reduce fuel loads and create fuel breaks.
Fuel breaks are a vital component in every firescape design. Water features,
pools, ponds or streams can also be fuel breaks. Areas where wildland
vegetation has been thinned or replaced with less flammable plants are
the traditional fuelbreak. Remember, while bare ground is effective from
the wildfire viewpoint, it is not promoted as a firescape element due
to aesthetic, soil erosion,
and other concerns.
A home located on a brushy site above a south or west facing slope will
require more extensive wildfire safety landscape planning than a house
situated on a flat lot with little vegetation around it.
Boulders and rocks become fire retardant elements in a design. Whether
or of hardscape (concrete, asphalt, wood decks, etc.), plant selection
and placement. Prevailing winds, seasonal weather, local fire history,
and characteristics of native vegetation surrounding the site are additional
The area closest to a structure out to 30 ft will be the highest water
use area in the fire safe landscape. This is an area where highly flammable
fuels are kept to a minimum and plants are kept green throughout the fire
season. Use well-irrigated perennials here. Another choice is low growing
or non-woody deciduous plants. Lawn is soothing visually, and is also
practical as a wildfire safety feature. Rock mulches are good choices.
Patios, masonry or rock planters are excellent fuel breaks and increase
Be creative with boulders, riprap, dry streambeds and sculptural inorganic
elements. When designing a landscape for fire safety, remember less is
better. Simplify visual lines and groupings. A firesafe landscape lets
plants and garden elements reveal their innate beauty by leaving space
between plants and groups of plants.