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Firewise Landscaping Douses Wildfire Risk

The National Fire Protection Association first conceived its wildfire risk awareness plan in 1986, after nearly 1,400 homes were lost to wildfires nationally the prior year. Today, the Firewise Communities program teaches people how to adapt to living with the threat of wildfire, and promotes local solutions and preventative community action to avoid losses.

To save lives and property from wildfire, the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Firewise Communities program is encouraging local awareness and preventative steps that landscape professionals and homeowners can take to protect people and property from wildfire risks.

Firewise Landscaping Tips
• Keep trees and shrubs pruned six to ten feet from the ground.
• Remove leaf clutter and dead and overhanging branches.
• Mow the lawn regularly and dispose of cutting and debris promptly.
• Store firewood away from the house.
• Maintain the irrigation system regularly.
• Learn local regulations regarding vegetative clearance, debris disposal, and requirements for fire safety equipment.

Home Ignition Zones
The primary goal of firewise landscaping is fuel reduction -- limiting the level of flammable vegetation and materials surrounding the home and increasing the moisture content of remaining vegetation.

This applies to the entire 'home ignition zone,' which extends up to 200 feet in high hazard areas. The NFPA breaks this area into three distinct zones.

Zone 1 (0-30 feet from the home)
This well-irrigated area encircles the structure and all its attachments (wooden decks, fences, and boardwalks) for at least 30 feet on all sides.

1) Plants should be carefully spaced, low growing and free of resins, oils and waxes that burn easily. 2) Mow the lawn regularly. Prune trees up six to ten feet from the ground.
3) Space conifer trees 30 feet between crowns. Trim trees that overhang the house.
4) Create a 'fire-free' area within five feet of the home, using non-flammable landscaping materials and/or high-moisture-content annuals and perennials.
5) Remove dead vegetation within 10 feet of house and under any decking or raised patios.
6) Consider fire-resistant material for patio furniture, swing sets, etc.
7) Firewood stacks and propane tanks should not be located in this zone.
8) Water plants, trees and mulch regularly.
9) Consider xeriscaping if you are affected by water-use restrictions.

Zone 2 (30-100 feet from the home)
Plants in this zone should be low growing, well irrigated, and less flammable.

1) Leave 30 feet between clusters of two to three trees, or 20 feet between individual trees.
2) Encourage a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees.
3) Establish 'fuel breaks', like driveways, gravel walkways and lawns.
4) Prune trees up six to ten feet from the ground.

Zone 3 (100-200 feet from the home)
Thin this area, although less space between plants is required than in Zone 2. Remove heavy accumulation of woody debris, as well as smaller conifers growing between taller trees. Reduce the density of tall trees so canopies are not touching.

The NFPA is co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters. More information, including state-by-state lists of recommended firewise plants, is available at

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October 15, 2019, 10:12 pm PDT

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