Drought.gov currently has designated Santa Fe as being in an extreme drought with no end in the upcoming month. Due to these dry and dangerous conditions, firescaping in our wildfire-prone areas needs to be your top priority. Wildfires can happen anywhere, at any time, and can be caused by humans and lightning and can be exacerbated by low rainfall and high winds. If a fire breaks out in your area, having the right landscape around your home can be the difference between your home surviving a fire or burning to the ground.
What Is Firescaping?
Firescaping is a landscape design that reduces the chance of your house and property being consumed by a wildfire. You want to have a landscape design and choice of plants that offers the best defense, and at the same time improves the look of your property. The goal is to surround the house with things that are less likely to burn.
Choose “Fire Smart” Plants
When selecting plants, keep the following tips in mind. Minimize using evergreen shrubs and trees within 30 feet of a structure since junipers, pinion, and pines contain oils which make these plants burn with great intensity. Select plants that are low-growing with high a moisture content. Deciduous trees like maples and ash trees are generally more fire resistant than evergreens because they have a higher moisture content when in leaf and a lower fuel volume when dormant, and they typically do not contain flammable oils.
Creating a Perimeter
Placement and maintenance of trees and shrubs are as important as actual plant selection. When placing trees in a landscape, remember the tree’s size at maturity. Keep tree limbs at least 15 feet from chimneys, power lines, and structures. Specimen trees can be used near a structure if pruned properly and well irrigated.
Here is a list of a few fire resistant plants:
Ground Covers: Iceplans, Veronica Speedwell
Vines: Clematis, Honeysuckle
Perennials: Columbines, Asters, Penstemons,
Shrubs: Potentilla, Oregon Grape, Lilacs
Trees: Maples, Ash
Fire Safety Zones
Firescape design implements the use of driveways, lawns, walkways, patios, parking areas , gravel/rock, water features, pools, and ponds, as fuel breaks. While bare ground is an effective fuel break, it is not recommended as a firescape because of aesthetics and erosion.
Include the following defensible space principles in your firescape design:
· Create a minimum 30-foot defensible space around structures (larger if there is a slope)
· Remove dead vegetation
· Create “islands” of plants with space between
· Create separation between layers of vegetation, eliminating the fuel “ladder”
· Keep the landscape green and low growing — that is, “lean, clean, and green”
In addition to these tips, always pay attention to air quality alerts and sign up for your community’s warning system to be aware of impending threats. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio are great resources for emergency alerts. With no relief in sight, get prepared, always be cautious, and protect your property to help protect your community!