How to Create a Fire Safe Landscape
By Steve Jacobs
Due to hot weather, strong winds and the drought, San Diego, recently experienced a series of devastating fires. With no end to the drought in sight and now that summer has arrived, it’s up to us to do everything we can to protect San Diego and our homes from fires in the upcoming months. One way is to make our landscaping fire safe. Here are some valuable tips to help you protect your home against fire:
Plants native to your location and elevation are generally considered the most fire resistant. Succulents are also a good option. There are many beautiful, colorful, fire-resistant plants to choose from. Some options are ice plant, which is a groundcover with succulent leaves and bright daisy-like flowers; Lavender, which has a wonderful scent; and Bearberry, which is a mat-forming groundcover with small green leaves that turn red and winter and white to pinkish in spring. To fill up the spaces between plants, there are beautiful decorative rock and stone options. You can also be wonderfully creative with diversity of plant types and colors. Make sure to use mulches to conserve moisture and reduce weed growth. Do not use Pine bark, thick layers of Pine needles, or other mulches that readily carry fire. Of course, all plants must be sufficiently watered.
Grass planted close to homes, garages, decks, firewood piles, shrubs and trees should be maintained at 3 inches or lower. Leaf litter and dead wood should be gathered, and sprouts at the base of trees should also be removed. Tree canopies should be raised to expose bare trunk above lower growing shrubbery.
In San Diego, there are 900 miles of wild land-urban interface, which is where canyons meet some of our backyards. The drought has increased the flammability of the canyon’s vegetation. In addition to maintaining your home’s landscaping, it’s also important to maintain the canyons. You can do this by clearing dead wood and dead vegetation, cutting down 50 percent of plants to 6 inches high, and thinning plants (your priority being non-native species and flammable native species).
Ensure fire department access (defensible space):
Oftentimes homeowners resist creating defensible space because they are afraid it will be unattractive. Of course, it doesn’t have to be. This is the area around the house to reduce fire danger and to allow firefighters to do their job. A minimum of a 4’ clearance is required. Remember, a fire fighter may need to drag a fire hose around your home, so leave room for this important task. It may also mean that the plants near your home need to be spaced farther apart and be lower growing than the plants farther away from your home.
Check distance to the nearest fire hydrant:
Do you know where your nearest fire hydrant is? You should! In the event of a fire, the firefighters may need to be instructed where to find the nearest hydrant. Make sure there’s at least 3’ of clearance around the hydrant.
Reduce the chance of flames or embers igniting your home:
If you have wood fencing, make sure it’s not close to or under the eaves of your home. Wood fencing has a large surface area and is very flammable. You can replace wood fencing in these areas with ornamental iron fencing. Do not store fire wood near your home for obvious reasons. One of the most important things you can do to defend your home against fire damage is to make sure all of the exterior vents to your home (roof, eave and wall) are screened with a fine mesh material. Without this barrier, hot embers can enter your vents and start fires within the attic and walls of your home.
If you have any questions about making your landscape fire safe for summer, please don’t hesitate to contact us. For more information about our company and services, visit our website at
or give us a call at (760) 945-4321.
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