Creating defensible space through firewise landscaping
Editor’s Note: This article is the third in a four-part series that will run through Tuesday.
This article on fire safety addresses firewise landscaping. Homeowners hold the key to successfully reducing the danger of wildland fire through implementing proactive mitigation strategies.
Fire is like a burglar: it will attack the most vulnerable properties. Your objective is to reduce the vulnerability of your property.
One of the most important mitigation actions homeowners can take is to wisely manage the vegetation around their homes and to encourage the members of their immediate neighborhood to do the same.
A firewise landscape is the first line of protection for your home, property and the lives of your family members. Implementing the following simple strategies will reduce your fire risk without reducing the attractiveness of your property.
Begin by clearing and thinning flammable vegetation growing or littering the ground within 100 feet of your home. Clean any combustible vegetation debris from the roof and gutters.
If you wish to replace the flammable vegetation, select fire-resistant plants and space them generously.
Thinning and removing flammable vegetation within 100 feet of your home creates what is know as a “defensible space.” Should a fire encroach on your property, this defensible space helps to keep the fire on the ground, makes it less intense, slow its advancement toward your home, and gives firefighters a chance to stop it before it reaches structures on your property.
Creating a defensible space does not mean you must clearcut all vegetation from your property! Some trees can remain and fire-resistant plants can be substituted for highly flammable plants.
Fire-resistant plants are easy to maintain, grow close to the ground, have a low sap or resin content, grow without accumulation of dead branches, needles or leaves, are easy to prune and are drought tolerant.
Examples of low growing, fire resistant plants available to this area are succulents, ajugas, iceplant, hen and chicks, sedums, ground covers, periwinkle, buttercup, pussytoes, mock strawberry, snow in summer, and sweet woodruff.
Avoid highly flammable ornamental plants such as juniper. Additional information on fire-resistant plants can be obtained from the Colorado State Forest Service, CSU Extension office or a local nursery.
Some additional landscaping points to consider:
Fire moves uphill quickly and intensely. If your home is on a slope, your defensible space may need to be greater than 100 feet.
Dispose of cuttings properly. Do not leave them around to add to the fire danger.
Trim tree branches and brush under power lines. Tree limbs hitting power lines can cause sparks which could start a fire. Do not plant trees under power lines.
Store firewood at least 30 feet from structures and keep flammable vegetation 10 feet from the wood pile.
Liquid propane tanks on your property should be situated at least 30 feet from any structures and have a 10 foot defensible space around them.
If your home has an irrigation system, make sure it is operational and in good repair.
Be safe when refueling gardening equipment and handling flammable liquids around dry, combustible materials.
You can obtain more information on this topic by contacting your local fire protection department or Ron Biggers, fire protection analyst for the Glenwood Springs Fire Department at 928-6033.
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