Los Angeles County is home to scenic vistas. The natural beauty and mild climate have attracted millions to settle in the mountains, deserts, and coastal valleys of our County. In many areas, fire is a natural part of the ecosystem. Fire cracks seed casings, allowing native plants to reproduce and thrive. It clears out dead brush that can choke living plants and cut off food for wildlife. While fire may be essential to natural systems in some areas, fire is usually disastrous for people. Your best defense against fire is learning to develop fire-wise landscape around your home.
Fire-wise gardening is not necessarily the same as a well-manicured yard. A fire-wise landscape uses careful planning as well as resistant plants that are strategically placed to resist the spread of fire to your home, combined with proper maintenance. It also means learning to water, prune and maintain your yard and garden in ways that help reduce fire danger. The good news is you do not need a lot of money to practice fire-wise gardening, and it could increase your property value and conserve water while beautifying your home. These fire-wise gardening precautions can make a real difference when brush fires strike.
1. Assess Your Fire Risk: Is your home on a hill or in a canyon area? Are you near highly flammable vegetation? Plan your landscape to reduce the amount of flammable vegetation nearest your home.
2. Plan a Defensible Space: Remove dry brush, grass and dead leaves from within at least 30 feet from your home, and at least 150 feet if you are on a hill. Depending on lot size, have 100 feet of area space that is cleared and landscaped appropriately. Install dual-paned windows with exterior pane made of tempered glass to reduce breakage.
3. Remove Combustible Plant Materials: Fire needs fuel to burn, so remove any unnecessary plant materials. Also, space trees and shrubs at least 10 feet apart and keep branches trimmed at least 10 feet from your roof. For trees or shrubs taller than 18 feet, prune lower branches within 6 feet of the ground and remove dead leaves, twigs and branches from below the plants. Remove/prune vegetation near windows. For trees or shrubs less than 18 inches, prune branches from the lower 1/3.
4. Choose Plants Carefully: Some plants are more resistant to burning than others. Consult with the County Fire Department at (323) 881-2411 to identify plants that are more fire-resistant.
5. Water Wisely: While all plants will eventually burn, green plants burn less quickly. Make sure you give your plants the amount of water they need to stay healthy without over-watering which can promote excessive growth.
6. Maintain Your Landscape: Keep your yard and garden clean and well-groomed by removing dead and dying grass, plants, and leaves on a regular basis. Prune and thin shrubs, trees, and other plants to minimize the fuel load. Compost your plant materials to make a nutrient rich soil amendment for use under and around your plants.
7. Evacuation Plan: Know two ways to exit neighborhood. Install dual-paned with exterior pane made of tempered glass to reduce breakage. Ensure your home address is clearly visible from street, and street signs are clearly posted.