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Creating a Firewise Landscape

Designing and creating landscapes is not just about crafting beautiful outdoor spaces. You should also take safety in consideration, particularly if you are living near an area where there is a higher risk of wildfires. The landscape can actually be a creative defense so that you can effectively prevent fires from getting any near your home. This is what firewise experts call a “defensible space”. That is, by arranging your landscape in a certain way, you make your home more secure and protected from fires.

Here are a few things to remember so that your landscape is not only gorgeous-looking but firewise as well:

–  Trees, plants and bushes can be a fire’s “stepping stones” to your home. The various types and sizes of vegetation have their rightful place in the landscape. Utah shrubs, lawns and bedding plants should be strategically placed to maximize aesthetics as well as ensure that fire cannot easily penetrate the space.

–  Practice proper spacing. When planting shrubs and trees, assign them to places where the house still has some measure of privacy through visual screening but still have the shrubs far enough from each other. As a rule, the distance from the groupings should be thrice the height of the tallest plant in the group. Don’t put plants too close to the deck, vents or eaves. Maintain the same principle of keeping distance when planning plants around sheds, garages and especially structures housing propane tanks.

–  Trim trees regularly. Tree limbs can also act as conduits of fire, allowing the fire to rise higher. In turn, this increases the risk of the fire spreading since the wind can blow on the embers, scattering it into different directions. The key is to prevent low fires from climbing up. On tall trees, cut off tree limbs that hang low, about 10 to 15 feet from the ground. As much as possible, there should be no tree limbs near the home or hanging over the roof. To make your job easier, choose trees that are compact and that grow slowly so as to minimize the need for pruning.

–  Guard your home defense zone. This is the area that covers 15 to 30 feet from the house. This space provides you with leeway to act in case of a looming threat of fire. Get rid of combustible materials such as dead leaves, fallen branches or dry grass. If you must store firewood or flammable materials, keep it well away from the house. The same goes for flammable liquids. Keep the grounds free from debris and cuttings, disposing of these as stipulated by the local regulations. Mow the lawn regularly as this surrounds your home defense zone. Dispose of the cut grass promptly. Regular mowing, watering and maintenance of the lawn will prevent the increase in dried grass that can draw fire to your house like a magnet.

–  Use non-flammable landscaping materials. Sometimes, houses fall victim to fires because of flying embers carried by the wind. If these embers fall on stone or pavers, they are most likely to die out. Consider using Utah pavers and boulders as decorative elements. When using mulching near the home, avoid using flammable mulching materials such as wood chips. Rather, opt for pebbles, gravel or gravel.

–  Choose fire-resistant plants. Although plants are not entirely fireproof, there are plants that are less vulnerable to fire since they keep a large amount of moisture in their leaves and only have a minimal resin, wax or oil content. Resin tends to smolder and makes the fire harder to put out. Oil and wax, on the other hand, make the plant more volatile. Some examples of fire-resistant trees are birch, mountain ash, winged elm, magnolia, oak, flowering dogwood and sycamore. Less flammable plants include irises, roses, lilac, currant, ferns, magnolia, honeysuckle, wormwood and wild azalea plants. Choose plants native to the area since these have already adapted. Also choose trees that have the following qualities: high resistance to drought, minimal need for pruning, and limited foliage.

–  Add attractive but strategic firebreaks. These are design elements that also serve to stop fires from getting any nearer the house. This includes Utah retaining walls, driveways, lawns, pathways, rock gardens, patios, and raised flower beds. Steep slopes are also a good defense mechanism, especially if you place retaining walls and terraces.

–  Maintain the irrigation system. This helps you to keep the plants well-watered and any mulching moist. In the case of an imminent threat of fire, keeping your irrigation in tip-top shape can help you fight off fire. A well-watered lawn can act to break the fire.