Don't Let Your House Burn- Fire Resistant Landscaping


  • Author Marie Wakefield
  • Published January 24, 2008
  • Word count 606

Wildfires will most likely be in the news again this year. As the world's population continues to grow, more people are building homes in rural forested or grassland areas also called the "wildlife urban interface". With the influx of new homeowners in and around such land, the chances of wildfires damaging or destroying homes increase.

Fire prone landscaping around homes increases the possibility of fire damage, while also hindering the activities of firefighters. Homeowners and communities would benefit from landscaping techniques that create a semi-fireproof zone or defensible space around homes.

The first step is creating a series of zones that break the fire chain. The concept behind this landscaping is that while no plant is fireproof, some are more flammable than others. The area around the house is landscaped into four plant zones, with the most flammable vegetation planted farthest from the house. Zone 4, farthest from the house, would consist of vegetation that has been thinned to reduce the amount of fuel that could feed a fire. Zone 3 includes plants selected for their low profile and slow-burning characteristics. Zone 2 features highly fire-retardant plants. It's designed to be a greenbelt zone of maximum fire protection. Zone 1, closest to the residence, is a small area of plants that pose little risk of burning.

Here are some more suggestions on how to make home landscaping more resistant to wildfires.


Keep roof and gutters clean by removing pine needles, leaves and other debris.

Use masonry walls, patios, walkways and pools to create a safety barrier close to structures.

Plant trees and shrubbery far enough apart so that their crowns will not touch when vegetation reaches maturity.

Prune low-growing, deep-rooted ground covers close to structures on hillsides.

Use timers on automatic sprinkler systems for consistent irrigation and water conservation.

Urge neighborhood cooperation to develop area-wide landscaping that inhibits flames from spreading.


Allow dead tree limbs or underbrush to accumulate within 30 feet of your home.

Landscape shrubbery and adjacent trees in a "fire ladder" that allows flames to quickly jump from ground level to heights.

Plant highly flammable trees such as eucalyptus, pine and juniper. Avoid flammable shrubbery.

Build narrow archways or passageways, or plant trees in a manner that restricts access for fire-fighting equipment.

Stack wood piles against residence walls.

Water too frequently if a natural area tends to dry out late in the season.

Be aware that standard landscape maintenance also offers some fire safety. Over time, plants grow and spread; mulches dry out; leaves and pine needles pile up. All of these can supply a fire with fuel. Proper preservation adds to your home's appearance and helps defend your home from wildfire.

Using fire resistant plants in your landscaping is part of the overall fire defense plan.

What are fire-resistant plants?

Fire resistant plants are plants that don't readily catch light from a flame or other flame starting sources. Although fire-resistant plants can be injured or even killed by fire, their foliage and stems don't add significantly to the fuel and, therefore, the fire's power.

Plants that are fire-resistant have the following characteristics:

Leaves are moist and flexible.

Plants that contain little dead wood and tend not to amass dry, dead material within the plant.

Sap is water-like and does not have a powerful scent.

Most deciduous trees and shrubs are fire-resistant.

However, keep in mind that even fire resistant plants can burn, especially if they are not kept healthy.

While little can be done to control the natural fires that occur in many areas, homeowners can change their approach to landscaping and help improve the chances of their homes and property surviving a brush fire.

For delicious landscaping ideas and other landscaping information visit

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