Spring is the time for planting trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants, including grass. Scott Mauney, Palo Pinto County extension agent, offered some advice when planting and said that Firewise landscaping should be considered when planning the location of each item to be planted.
“The most important portion of the home ignition zone is the defensible space of zero to 30 feet from the foundation,” noted Mauney. “This area should have plants that are low to the ground, green and healthy. Use moist plants around the foundation. Keep them properly watered and avoid large clumps of plants that can generate high heat. Use material such as rock or stone, instead of mulch, around the home to create a buffer between the grass and foundation. Highly flammable plants should be removed or isolated. Plants or plant groups should be isolated into islands, breaking up the fuel continuity. Also remove dead and dying plants and plant materials. Keeping more volatile and larger trees and plants to the outer portions of the defensible space is important. Small shrubs with low density can provide beauty and other benefits. Maintenance includes keeping shrubs small, proper pruning and cleaning under all plants and maintaining a green and mowed lawn.”
According to Mauney, the idea of a Firewise landscape is to have fire resistant plant materials placed in such a manner as to lessen the chances of wildfire reaching and burning a home. The landscape surrounding a home can become fuel for a wildfire. The following are examples of acceptable fire-resistant plants that could be used in the first 30 feet around your home: columbine, phlox, aster, primrose, violets, bluebells, gayfeather and bluebonnet. There are many more that have fire-resistant characteristics.
Mauney also warned that decks and siding can easily ignite when plants that burn quickly and produce high heat are placed adjacent to the home.
A burning plant or group of plants in front of windows can cause glass breakage allowing fire to enter the home. Taller flames adjacent to the home can enter through the soffits. Fire can get into the crowns of trees, if plants are layered in such a way that fire climbs into the treetops, it is known as ladder fuels.
When flames burn through tree crowns, or the canopy, intense heat and embers are given off. This causes burning materials to fall on the roof and surrounding vegetation.
“Plants placed so that a fire can spread to a home increase the chance of a home burning, because it is a continuation of the fuel,” explained Mauney.
“Creating ‘defensible space’ will greatly reduce a home’s risk to wildfire. Defensible space is the area between a structure and an oncoming wildfire, or between a burning structure and wildland vegetation, where nearby vegetation has been modified to reduce a wildfire’s intensity. This area will most likely have trees, shrubs and grass. The grass should be watered regularly and cut short. Ladder fuels that allow fire to climb from lower to higher vegetation should be removed in this area.”
Mauney recommended that the best choices for trees are deciduous species with wide, broad leaves. Shrubbery and bushes should be placed away from trees and planted in islands or groupings. Use brick or stone along the edge of an island to slow the flame spread. Single plants or groups within islands provide a separation of fuels and are decorative. Small to medium deciduous trees are preferable to evergreens in this zone.
And finally, Mauney said that firewood, small brush piles or stacks of building materials should be moved to a zone of 30 to 100 feet from the home, or further away.
With the high risk of fires in the area, partially due to the lack of precipitation and the ongoing drought, everyone must become more aware of the need for safety and be more cautious every time a fire is lit.
To learn more about protecting a home and property, call Mauney at 940-659-2588 or go to www.firewise.org.