By: Wendy Langhans
Last weekend, I attended the Fire-Safe Landscaping workshop at Hart Park, which was put on by University of California Cooperative Extension. They provided a great deal of useful information, and I’m providing hyperlinks so that you can access that information for yourself.
I want to share with you three ideas that I found useful and one story that simply made me laugh out loud. Fire safety is a serious subject but sometimes we all need a therapeutic laugh. I hope you find it funny as well.
- Because hot air rises, fires burn upwards. What this means is: Flammable shrubs next to the house provide a way for fire to get under the overhanging eaves. Trees should be pruned at least 6 feet above the ground to reduce “fire ladders” Shrubs should be pruned from the bottom and inside to remove dead material and branches. Shearing and shaping from the top and outside may be quick and look pretty but is not an effective fire-safety technique.
- Just because it’s a native plant does not mean it’s fire-resistant. Native plants like chamise, California sagebrush and buckwheat have volatile oils that burn. You can have these plants in your landscape, just not close to the house. Keep them trimmed and at least 100 feet away, out of your home’s “defensible space”. In some areas of LA County, the standard is 200 feet.
- Fire-fighters are heroes, but they’re not miracle workers. As a homeowner, you have a role to play. You have to give them space to access your home. Quaint narrow driveways and a privacy screen or arbor of woody shrubs does not allow access.Do you leave your upstairs windows open when you’re not at home? Flying embers can easily melt a nylon screen. And in a Santa Ana wind, those embers can be huge.
- And now a funny story to share: at Hart Park, they have begun using flocks of goats to reduce the amount of vegetation (sometimes known as fuel) in their open spaces. But there were concerns that the goats carry non-native and invasive plant seeds in their digestive system. These seeds would be left behind in a pile of fertilizer when the goats “did their business”. So before the goats are allowed to roam in Hart Park, they are given a digestive purge.
But all kidding aside, invasive plants are a fire hazard. You don’t want to create a new problem while trying to fix the old. So if your home is landscaped with an invasive plant like pampas grass, take heed. You may want to do a purge of your own.
To learn more about wildland fire safety, here are a few websites you can check out.
University of California Extension website:
California Invasive Plant Council
Los Angeles County Fire Department, Forestry Division
From San Diego, a site created to increase awareness of risks and hazards and offer tips on how they can be reduced
California Fire Safe Council
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Saturday, Nov 10, 8:00-noonish. Towsley Canyon
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