Wednesday, March 29, 2017

FireWise Landscaping


By Linda Langelo, CSU Horticulture Program Associate

 

Fire can happen on any landscape, at any time.  Incorporating preparation and prevention can assist with lessening the threat of fire.  

A fire on the plains can be effected by three things:

·        Surface fuels

·        Fine, fast-burning fuels

·        Usually driven by high wind

 
Photo Credit: Colorado Forest Service, Boyd Lebeda
 
 
What can you do when faced with a grass fire that travels quickly?  What preparations do you need to put in place around your home, long before a wild- fire? 
Aside from all of the above information, before fire season, stand back and look at your landscape differently can help prevent disaster to your family’s home.
First, according to the Colorado Forest Service when renovating your landscape around your home, this requires a defensible space.  This space serves as a buffer between your home and the trees, shrubs, perennials, grass and any wildland area that surround your home.  Do you have an evergreen planted up against your home? Does the ground slope away from your home?  What types of are established vegetation on your property?  All are factors to your ability to mitigate fire damage to your home.  CSU Forest Service recommends keeping your defensible space clean of trash and debris.
Second, everyone’s home has weak spots and hardening your home means using construction materials that can help your home withstand flying embers and shore up those weak spots.  Do you have a wood deck that attaches to your home? Are there garden tools with wooden handles or brooms or other highly flammable materials under the deck such as pine needles or leaves?  How often do you clean your gutters of debris? 
Third, have a Family Disaster Plan that has evacuation routes in place in case your family is asked to evacuate, a meeting area outside the fire hazard area and a Disaster Supply Kit.  This kit needs to last for at least 3 days and contain your family’s and pets’ necessary items.  Some of these items might be prescription medicines, cash, water, clothing, food and first aid.
Preparation goes a long way towards the success in a fire disaster or any disaster.  Disasters can put people in a panic mode.  If you have a plan, having a disaster supply kit insures that you may not forget medicine or something equally critical and the plan helps save lives. 
Now that you have an idea of what fuels a fire and what you need to do, you can add fire-resistant plants to your property and still have a beautiful landscape. There is a factsheet listed below which I have referenced in this article.  There are some wonderful native plants such as some of the perennial native forbs(wildflowers):
·        Echinacea purpurea, Purple Coneflower
·        Ratibida columnifera, Prairie Coneflower
·        many different species of Penstemon. 
 
Beyond these there is a wide list of non-native perennial choices from the FireWise Plant List on the FireWise Plant Materials Factsheet:
·        Ajuga reptans          Bugleweed
·        Lamium spp.            Dead nettle
·        Armeria maritima   Sea thrift
There are a number of shrubs and trees from which to choose from the same factsheet:
·        Prunus cerasifera               Flowering plum
·        Amelanchier alnifolia        Saskatoon alder-leaf serviceberry
·        Shepherdia argentea         Silver buffaloberry
·        Crataegus spp.                    Hawthorn
 
Here are some CSU links for Fire-Resistant Landscaping and FireWise Plant Materials that you can access for guides also used as references for this article:
CSU Quick Guide Series – Protecting Your Home from Wildfire: Creating Wildfire-Defensible Zones formerly CSU Extension Factsheet 6.302 –link:
 
CSU Forest Home Fire Safety Factsheet 6.304
CSU Fire-Resistant Landscaping 6.303
CSU Fire Wise Plant Materials 6.305
 


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