Like most Sonoma residents fortunate enough to survive the October fires with an intact home and an un-burnt landscape, I’m re-evaluating my landscape. Before the fires I assumed that I’m safer here in town. But now it is clear that with enough wind and fuel a fire storm can devastate everything in its path — sometimes in a matter of minutes. The fire storm doesn’t care whether it consumes a forest, a rural property, or a densely populated neighborhood.
I highly advise that all of us in fire prone Northern California read the following sources.
Cal Fire, as you would expect, has an excellent web site that includes a section that explains defensible space and fire safe landscaping, at Readyforwildfire.org. Its graphics about vertical and horizontal spacing of trees and shrubs (including variations for different slopes) are very informative. It also offers a colorful, 48-page, fire safe plant list.
The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) has an excellent five-page article on Fire Resistant Landscaping by Suzanne Schettler. Schettler addresses the flammability of various plants, plant separation options such as planting islands, and also horticultural practices that keep your property more fire safe.
Once you’ve read through Cal Fire and CNPS’s information you’ll be ready to re-evaluate your landscape layout and choose whether to prune, trim, add or remove certain plants. A great resource is FireSafe Marin’s website, with an extensive and somewhat interactive list of safe plants, at Firesafemarin.org/plants/fire-resistant. It has great photos, links to descriptions, and sorting by plant type (tree, shrub, ground-cover, etc.). It also has a table of fire-prone plants; take action to make your landscape safer.
Even if we have good horticultural practices, keep our gardens well maintained, and understand fire-safe landscaping it is easy to get too busy and overlook planting scenarios that could be safer. Here’s what I needed to do on my property.
I hope this information inspires you re-evaluate your landscape now to create a safer home for you, and your family, and your community. My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones and property in this disaster.