Back in November I attended a Black Forest Garden Club monthly meeting on the topic of fire mitigation in our area. Community Risk Reduction Specialist Colleen Potton presented us with a wealth of information on how to easily and inexpensively reduce the risk of fire around our homes and on our properties.
The most important things to know:
1. Fire can be caused by a number of things like lightning, cigarettes being thrown out a car window, or carelessness with outdoor fires. However, a fire grows and spreads quickly due to embers - those little flying hot things that are easily carried by wind and eventually land somewhere. If that somewhere is in the dry brush underneath your deck or in the bark mulch up against the foundation of your home, it could spell disaster.
2. When something like a shrub or wood pile or porch chair catches fire, the flames typically leap two times as high as the object itself. Whatever is above the object can catch fire because the flames might be able to reach it.
I had Colleen come to my house (she visits for free) to provide a risk assessment, and I learned we aren't as buttoned down around my home as I thought. The siding on the garage side of my home, for example, doesn't come all the way down to the ground on the outside of the structure. This has left a small area between siding and ground that an ember could fly in to and catch the particle board behind the siding on fire. We put some flashing there, and presto, problem solved.
We have a large Ponderosa pine that I don't want to cut down - it is close to the deck and provides wonderful shade on hot summer days. Our deck isn't wood, (it is composite) so that's good. But the pine tree has dropped loads of pine needles all around the base of the tree, into the roof gutter nearby, and into the native shrub that offered itself under the tree a few years ago.
Colleen said we can keep the tree, but the consequence of that is a need to be hyper aware to keep the area clean of pine needles and other debris that gathers there, and to definitely remove the new shrub under the tree.
We use rock mulch for everything in the landscape except two small beds that have bark mulch and come right up to the foundation of the house. Colleen advised changing the bark mulch over to rock because of how close it is to the home and also because bark mulch can easily trap embers that can turn into fire, whereas rock mulch helps prevent embers from turning into something bigger.
Colleen's Helpful Resources
Wildfire Resistant Landscaping with drawings
FireWise Groundcover List
Wildfire Resistant Plants
Interested in your own fire mitigation assessment? Contact information for Colleen is here:
Community Risk Reduction Specialist
The assessment takes about an hour.